American Retail Marketplace Bought for $250m

As part of its global expansion plans, particularly into America, Japan’s leading internet company, Rakuten, announced Thursday that it has reached an agreement to acquire, a leading American retail marketplace for approximately $250 million.

Across Asia, Rakuten has established itself as one of the largest e-commerce companies, empowering tens of thousands of merchants to build personal relationships with their customers through innovative approaches of combining shopping and entertainment – called Rakuten Ichiba. In 2005, Rakuten established a presence in the U.S. through its acquisition of LinkShare, a leading performance marketing company.

“Rakuten hopes that the acquisition will make its marketplace, Rakuten Ichiba, more competitive internationally with e-commerce giants like and eBay,” reports The New York Times.

In North America and much of Europe, has recently surged as a major online marketplace, having experienced profitable growth for the past three years. Among its own innovations, was the first online retailer to offer enhanced shopping features such as BuyTV, which enables consumers to watch product video reviews and learn about products before purchase.

“As we evaluated how to accelerate our global expansion, it became clear that a partnership with made perfect sense,” said Hiroshi Mikitani, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Rakuten. “As a company, shares our vision for the future of ecommerce ‐ as a platform to give consumers the best value no matter their location, and to merge shopping with entertainment, and to help retailers build deep and lasting consumer relationships.”

In Japan, Rakuten has approximately 64 million registered members and sales in 2009 totalled US$3.2 billion. Its core business “Rakuten Ichiba” is Japan’s largest Internet shopping mall and offers more than 50 million products by over 33,000 merchants, some of whom have turnover of more than US$1 million per month. In addition to its Internet shopping mall, Rakuten, which has more than 6,000 employees, is engaged in other Internet businesses such as travel agency and financial services.