Japanese E-Commerce Company Rakuten Buys E-Reading Platform Kobo For $315M In Cash

Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten has acquired e-Reading platform Kobo for $315 million in cash. Founded in 2009, Kobo is the developer of eReaders, eReading apps and more with a number of retail partners around the world.

For Rakuten, this is a way for the company to get in on the eBooks market. Kobo recently debuted its Vox e-Reader tablet, touting it as the world’s first social e-reader.

Kobo says that the company will maintain its headquarters, management team and employees based in Toronto, Ontario. The company’s CEO Michael Serbinis says that the acquisition will allow Kobo to “diversify quickly into other countries and e-commerce categories.”

Rajuten has been on a bit of an acquition spree. The company acquired French e-commerce company PriceMinisterfor $250 million – back in 2010 and bought Tradoria, a German online shopping mall, in July 2011. Rakuten also recently acquired Brazilian e-commerce company Ikeda in addition to Buy.com (also for $250 million) and Play.com.

Rakuten, Inc. (JASDAQ: 4755) and Kobo Inc. today announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Rakuten intends to acquire 100% of total issued and outstanding shares of Kobo for US$315 million in cash.

“From a business and cultural perspective this is a perfect match”
Kobo was founded by and spun out of Indigo, the largest book, gift and specialty toy retailer in Canada, in December, 2009. Since that time, Kobo has become a fierce competitor in the eBook marketplace, with a family of innovative eReaders, a wide range of eReading apps, one of the largest eBook catalogues, an innovative social platform and retail partners around the globe.

The acquisition marks a major step forward for Rakuten, one of the world’s top 3 e-commerce companies by revenue, as it continues to expand its unique B2B2C borderless e-commerce business globally, by adding an ecosystem to provide downloadable media products to consumers, starting with eBooks.

Hiroshi Mikitani, Chairman and CEO of Rakuten, commented on the acquisition, “We are very excited about this next step. Kobo provides one of the world’s most communal eBook reading experiences with its innovative integration of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter; while Rakuten offers Kobo unparalleled opportunities to extend its reach through some of the world’s largest regional e-commerce companies, including Buy.com in the US, Tradoria in Germany, Rakuten Brazil, Rakuten Taiwan, Lekutian in China, TARAD in Thailand, and Rakuten Belanja Online in Indonesia, and of course, Rakuten Ichiba in Japan.”

“From a business and cultural perspective this is a perfect match,” commented Kobo CEO Michael Serbinis. “We share a common vision of creating a content experience that is both global and social. Rakuten is already one of the world’s largest e-commerce platforms, while Kobo is the most social eBook service on the market and one of the world’s largest eBook stores with over 2.5 million titles. This transaction will greatly strengthen our position in our current markets and allow us to diversify quickly into other countries and e-commerce categories.”

Upon closing the acquisition, Kobo will continue to maintain its headquarters, management team and employees based in Toronto, Ontario.

The global eBook market is one of the fastest growing segments of the consumer technology industry, with a compound annual growth rate of 36% through 2015*. The global content market size is also expected to grow dramatically to reach approximately US$10.6 billion per year by 2015 (estimates exclude China).