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Rakuten buys Ebates


ebatesJapanese e-commerce giant Rakuten will buy US online shopping operator Ebates for about $US1 billion ($A1.08 billion) as it taps overseas markets to counter a limited home market.

Rakuten said the all cash deal would give it access to 2.5 million new customers in the United States, Canada, South Korea and China.

“The company will acquire Ebates for a total consideration of $US1 billion in cash, and will hold 100 per cent of Ebates outstanding voting stock,” Rakuten said in a statement.

“The combination of the two companies will give birth to an attractive and innovative membership-based marketplace for consumers featuring a points program at the core.”

Rakuten’s billionaire CEO, Hiroshi Mikitani, said it was a “strategically important” move that would give his company a foothold in the enormous US market.

The deal could help Rakuten compete abroad with industry giants Amazon and China’s Alibaba, which is preparing an initial public offering that could raise as much as $US24.3 billion in what will be the biggest share sale in history.

San Francisco-based Ebates runs websites that offer rebates and coupons for shopping from 1700 plus partner retailers, including Amazon and eBay.

It hosted about $US2.2 billion in transactions in its 2013 fiscal year.

Rakuten has a credit card linked reward points system in Japan to help retain its customer base.

Lacking a similar setup in the US the Ebates acquisition is seen as a way to lure shoppers looking for cash back deals to Rakuten’s virtual shopping mall.

Since launching its business in Taiwan in 2008, Rakuten has expanded to more than 10 foreign markets.

But its foreign e-commerce transactions are a small share of its overall business, which is focused on a domestic market that is unlikely to offer much more room for growth.

Last year, Rakuten bought US video streaming provider Viki for about $US200 million while in February it picked up messaging app provider Viber for around $US900 million.

It has also scooped up Canadian e-reader firm Kobo.

Rakuten’s Tokyo listed shares ended down 1.25 per cent at 1254 yen ($A12.98) before the deal was confirmed.


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