In a blockbuster move that bodes well for businesses in the messaging space, Viber has been acquired by Tokyo-based internet retailer Rakuten Inc. in an all cash deal worth $900 million.
Viber is among the most downloaded phone and messaging apps in the world and boasts a user base of 300 million with most of its users in the United States, Australia and Russia.
With the recent unveiling of Viber Out, users can make voice calls to other users as well as unregistered phones. That puts Viber into direct competition with Skype and puts it into a league that Line and WeChat haven’t hit yet.
In addition to more than doubling its 200 million users, Rakuten, the sixth largest e-commerce company in the world by sales, expects the messaging service to complement its existing business. Billionaire cofounder and Rakuten CEO Hiroshi Mikitani says customers could potentially use the service to get in touch with a merchant before making a purchase. Mikitani says this added personalization will be what puts Rakuten above competitors like eBay and Amazon.
The deal is expected to be completed by the end of March.