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Play.com tech titan snaps up 'VoIP-tastic WhatsApp' firm Viber

Rakuten acquires app for $900m in cold hard cash

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Japanese ecommerce giant Rakuten will slurp messaging app Viber for $900m in cash as it continues its plans for world domination.

The firm behind Play.com offers services from shopping to online video and is now adding messaging and VoIP to its repertoire courtesy of Viber, which is run from Cyprus by Israeli entrepreneur Talmon Marco. The app purchase will bring over 300 million users to add to Rakuten's existing 200 million users.

Rakuten, hugely popular in Japan, has been busily expanding out of its home territory with a number of acquisitions. In 2012, it snapped up ereading service Kobo and video-on-demand service Wuaki.tv, while late last year it acquired digital content platform Viki.

Rakuten chairman and CEO Hiroshi Mikitani told media in Japan that the buying up Viber would take the firm "to a different level".

"Developing this messaging system on our own would have been impossible," he said.

He explained that the company planned to integrate the messaging service into existing services by allowing users to instantly message online stores, for example.

According to a statement from the companies, Viber has grown over 120 per cent in 2013. Viber chief Marco said that it aims to be the number one communications platform after it's acquired by Rakuten. ®

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