Rakuten to sell 8% stake to Japan Post in Amazon battle

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Rakuten is pictured at the headquarters of Rakuten in Tokyo, Japan

Japanese e-commerce firm Rakuten Inc said on Friday it would sell an 8.32% stake to postal and banking giant Japan Post Holdings Co Ltd, deepening a logistics tie-up in the face of competition from rivals such as Amazon.com Inc.

Rakuten, which plunged to an operating loss in 2020, is under pressure on multiple fronts as it battles Amazon in e-commerce and takes on Japan’s cash-rich telcos with its own mobile network.

“Rakuten is the best partner for us, as it has advanced digital technology,” Japan Post Holdings Chief Executive Hiroya Masuda told a news conference.

Friday’s deal makes Japan Post Holdings the biggest shareholder in Rakuten outside the founding Mikitani family. A former state-owned utility that was later privatised, the company has a presence on almost all Japanese high streets, with its postal unit, Japan Post, having around 24,000 post offices nationwide.

“As tech giants grow in power we’re combining our strength,” said Rakuten’s chief executive, Hiroshi Mikitani.

Last year Rakuten acquired a 20% stake in Walmart Inc’s Japanese supermarket unit. It has had a partnership with the unit, Seiyu, since 2018.

This month, chat app operator Line merged with SoftBank’s internet business Yahoo Japan in a deal first announced in 2019.

Shares of both Rakuten and Japan Post rose in afternoon trade in Tokyo after Reuters and other media reported the tie-up.

Image Frame Investment, a unit of Chinese tech giant Tencent Holdings Ltd , will also take 3.65% in Rakuten through third-party allotment, according to a Rakuten’s filing.

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