Rakuten acquires 70% stake in Japanese coupon website Shareee, says deal adds offline element to its Internet-based services by helping drive business to physical stores from websites

TOKYO , September 4, 2012 (press release) – Rakuten, Inc. (JASDAQ:4755) has announced the acquisition of 70% of the shares issued by Shareee, Inc., which operates coupon website named "Shareee." Rakuten Executive Officer Yoshiaki Onishi was appointed CEO of Shareee as of August 31. The site will be jointly run with existing stockholder Hikari Tsushin Inc. (TSE:9435).Rakuten aims to further expand the "Rakuten Eco-system" by leveraging business synergies with a number of Rakuten Group Internet services, including Rakuten Ichiba and Rakuten Travel.

Since Rakuten was founded, it has aimed to become the No. 1 Internet services company in the world and the expansion of the "Rakuten Eco-system" has been one of its business strategies. Currently, its principal business, the Rakuten Ichiba Internet shopping mall, has over 100 million items registered for sale, while Rakuten Travel, the online travel reservation service, has more than 27,000 accommodation providers Japan-wide in its stable. In addition, the company counts a golf course reservation service and an online auction site among its gamut of Internet service offerings. With its domestic e-commerce business worth around 1.2 trillion yen by gross transaction volume for 2011, Rakuten is one of Japan's largest Internet services companies.

In recent years, coupons have quickly developed as a new online marketing tool. Shareee's main offerings include bookings for restaurants, accommodation, and relaxation amenities, securing its place as the third largest coupon website in Japan by sales.

Rakuten's investment in Shareee adds an offline element to its Internet-based services suite, aiming to further expand "Rakuten Eco-system." Through the partnership with Hikari Tsushin, which is very capable with regard to offline sales, Rakuten, with its over 78 million-strong membership base and ability to drive customers to businesses through the Internet and e-mails, aims to grow its coupon business into one of its leading O2O (online to offline) businesses, utilizing the strengths of both companies.

The first step going forward will be to bring the "Rakuten Anshin Payment Service" to Shareee, in an effort to increase traffic and gain new customers through access to Rakuten Super Points. Even greater expansion of the "Rakuten Eco-system" will be sought in the future through the strengthening of coordination between Shareee's coupon operation and Racoupon, the Rakuten Group's exclusive coupon service that was launched in 2010.

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