Not to be confused with Rakuten.com.
Rakuten, Inc.
Public KK
Traded as TYO: 4755
Industry Internet
Founded February 7, 1997 (1997-02-07) (as MDM, Inc.)
Founder Hiroshi Mikitani
Headquarters Tokyo, Japan
Area served
Key people
Hiroshi Mikitani
(Chairman and CEO)
Products E-commerce
Services Online shopping
Revenue Increase ¥713.5 billion (2015)[1]
Decrease ¥44.28 billion (2015)[1]
Number of employees
13,762 (September 2016)[2]
Website global.rakuten.com/group/
Hiroshi Mikitani, founder and CEO of Rakuten

Rakuten, Inc. (楽天株式会社 Rakuten Kabushiki-gaisha) is a Japanese electronic commerce and Internet company based in Tokyo, Japan. Its B2B2C[3] e-commerce platform Rakuten Ichiba is the largest e-commerce site in Japan and among the world’s largest by sales.[4]

Hiroshi Mikitani founded the company in February 1997 as MDM, Inc., and is still its chief executive. Rakuten Shopping Mall (楽天市場 Rakuten Ichiba) started operations in May 1997. In June 1999, the company changed its name to Rakuten, Inc. The Japanese word rakuten means optimism.[5]

In 2012, the company's revenues totaled US$4.6 billion with operating profits of about US$244 million.[6] In June 2013, Rakuten, Inc. reported it had a total of 10,351 employees worldwide.[7]

In 2005, Rakuten started expanding outside Japan, mainly through acquisitions and joint ventures.[8] Its acquisitions include Buy.com (now Rakuten.com Shopping in the US), Priceminister (France), Ikeda (now Rakuten Brasil), Tradoria (now Rakuten Deutschland), Play.com (UK), Wuaki.tv (Spain), and Kobo Inc. (Canada).[9] The company has investments in Pinterest,[10] Ozon.ru,[11] AHA Life,[12] and Daily Grommet.[13]

In 2015, Rakuten relocated its corporate headquarters from Shinagawa to the Tamagawa neighbourhood of Setagaya, to consolidate its Tokyo offices and to accommodate future growth[14]

On 16 November 2016, Rakuten signed a $200m deal for global sponsorship with Spanish Club FC Barcelona till 2020. It will replace Qatar Airways for this role.[15]

Lines of business

The Rakuten Group consists in total of around forty businesses & services such as -

  1. Online retail: Operation in a number of countries outside Japan;
  2. Banking, Credit and Payments: Offering personal consumer credit services including card loans, mortgages, and other banking services;
  3. Portal and Media: Managing portal sites acting as gateways to the internet, and performing other activities;
  4. Travel: Operating hotel booking and other travel-related websites and providing other services;
  5. Securities: Providing services such as online securities brokerage;
  6. Professional Sports: Managing a professional baseball team, planning and selling related merchandise and performing other activities;
  7. Entertainment: Online video club.

The group's 2010 annual report shows that its online shopping business, Rakuten Ichiba, was Japan's largest online shopping mall, offering customers more than 95 million products from about 40,000 merchants.[16][17] It also had 9 million credit card customers and more than 75 million users in Japan.[17] As part of the group's globalization initiative, Rakuten Ichiba started offering international shipping.


In October 2005, Rakuten bought a 15% stake in Tokyo Broadcasting System, raising its stake in the broadcaster to 19%.[18] Rakuten later withdrew its bid and sold its shareholding back to Tokyo Broadcasting.[19][20]

Global expansion


Rakuten bought New York City-based Linkshare - since rebranded "Rakuten Linkshare" - offering performance-based online sales and marketing programs.[21][22][23][24]


To increase its global competitiveness, Rakuten decided to adopt English as the company’s official language from mid-2012.[25][26] That year, Rakuten also bought French online retailer Priceminister for €200 million[27] and US-based Buy.com for US$250 million.[28][29] The group had been a significant shareholder in Ctrip, a Chinese travel site until it sold its stake in the company in August 2007 and, in 2010, it announced a joint venture with Baidu in China (Lekutian).[30][31]


After launching Indonesia's Rakuten Belanja Online, a joint venture in June the group continued its global growth the same month, snapping up Brazilian e-commerce firm Ikeda — since, renamed Rakuten Brazil. In July, it bought German e-commerce start-up Tradoria and rebranded it Rakuten Deutschland, and in September UK online retailer and e-commerce marketplace Play.com for £25 million (almost $41 million). After a 2010 UK government decision to impose Value Added Tax on UK-based companies' sales from the Channel Islands - until then exempt from the tax on shipments of goods worth less than £18 (about $28)[32] - Rakuten closed one of three Play.com warehouses on the island of Jersey.[33] In September, Rakuten took a minority equity stake in Russian online retailer Ozon.ru,dubbed 'Russia's Amazon', which had reported 2010 sales worth US$137 million.[34] A four-company-strong consortium, led by the Japanese group, invested US$100 million. Rakuten's stake was not revealed.[35] Rakuten announced an agreement to buy Canadian e-book reader company Kobo in November,[36][37] with the deal finalized in January 2012.[38]


On 17 May, Rakuten announced that it was leading consortium investing $100 million in the Pinterest picture sharing social network — its partners were existing investors Andreessen Horowitz, Bessemer Venture Partners, and FirstMark Capital, and a number of investment 'angels'. That investment marked the start of a drive to expand Pinterest's presence in Japan and Rakuten’s 17 other global markets. "While some may see e-commerce as a straightforward vending machine-like experience, we believe it is a living process where both retailers and consumers can communicate, discover, and curate to make the experience more entertaining," said Hiroshi Mikitani, Rakuten chief executive.[39]

On 13 June, Rakuten bought Wuaki.tv, a Spanish video on demand (VOD) service/company that is one of the largest in Europe and the market leader in Spain, where it has over 600,000 registered users. That opened new opportunities, directly challenging Amazon, Netflix and others for domination of the VOD market — at first, in Europe and, later, elsewhere.[40] In November, Rakuten bought French online retail delivery company Alpha Direct Services. "Speed and quality of delivery is at the heart of any solid e-commerce proposition," said the Japanese group's Hiroshi Mikitani.[41]

On 10 October, Rakuten acquired French electronic publishing company Aquafadas via its Kobo subsidiary to strengthen its position in rich media categories.[42]

By late 2012, Rakuten had also moved into online retail in Austria, Canada, Spain, Taiwan and Thailand and into the online travel markets in France — with Voyager Moins Cher.com — and China, Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan — with its Tokyo-based international Rakuten Travel platform. In North America, Rakuten Golf made booking tee time online possible.[43]


In May 2013, Rakuten acquired a majority share in "citizen commerce" site, Daily Grommet,[44] since rebranded as The Grommet.[45] In June 2013, Rakuten announced its acquisition of U.S.-based logistics and services company Webgistix.[46] specializing in fulfillment technology for e-commerce retailers. The acquisition is Rakuten’s second logistics investment outside Japan and enables prompt fulfillment in the U.S.

In September 2013, Rakuten acquired Singapore-based Viki.[47]

The initiative Choice in eCommerce was founded on May 8, 2013 by several online retailers in Berlin, Germany.[48][49][50][51][52][53][54][55][56] The cause was, in the view of the initiative, sales bans and online restrictions by individual manufacturers. The dealers felt cut off from their main sales channel and thus deprived them the opportunity to use online platforms like Amazon, eBay or Rakuten in a competitive market for the benefit of their customers.


On February 13, 2014, Rakuten announced they have acquired Viber for $900 million.[57]

In late 2013, Rakuten Ichiba Japan launched a new scheme that allows US-based e-tailers to sell on Rakuten's Japanese E-commerce marketplace without a local address, bank account, or an entity based in Japan. In an effort to globalize the marketplace, Rakuten Ichiba is expected to welcome more international sellers in fiscal year 2014.

On May 27, 2014, Rakuten announce that it will open the doors to its flagship, Kashiwa Sato designed “Rakuten CAFE” in Shibuya, Tokyo on Thursday, May 29, 2014. The new venture will offer customers a menu featuring some of the most popular desserts and snacks from Rakuten Ichiba and will allow patrons to experience a variety of Rakuten services.[58]

On May 29, 2014, Rakuten Marketing acquired DC Storm, a UK-based technology company which specializes in marketing attribution modeling and data-driven marketing.[59]

In August 2014, Rakuten announced its purchase of Slice, a US company that provides online shopping services and sells business intelligence based on digital commerce measurement, for an undisclosed sum.[60]

In September 2014, it was revealed that Rakuten would acquire US rebate site operator Ebates Inc. for around $1 billion.[61]


In March 2015, Rakuten has announced that it will soon accept Bitcoin across its global marketplaces. The company is putting its investment in Bitnet — a startup that raised $14.5 million last October — to work with this development. Bitnet, which was founded by ex-Visa execs and is rivaled by Coinbase and BitPay, will initially be integrated into Rakuten’s U.S. marketplace to allow customers to pay in BTC.

Next up, the new payment option will roll out in Germany and Austria, with other international markets to follow. Interestingly, there’s no specific mention of when Bitnet will be integrated into Rakuten Japan, which is the most prominent of its 12 country-specific services.[62]


On February 12, Rakuten has confirmed that Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia marketplaces will be shutting down. About 150 staff are about to be laid off. The company did not give a specific reason for the closures, except to say that the moves are in line with a new roadmap.[63] On June 7, Rakuten announced plans to focus investment on France and Germany and restructure e-commerce marketplace operations in UK, Spain and Austria.[64]

On November 16, Rakuten announced it has agreed to a four-year partnership with one of the world’s most esteemed soccer clubs, FC Barcelona. The agreement will see Rakuten become FC Barcelona’s Main Global Partner and its first-ever Global Innovation and Entertainment Partner from the 2017-2018 season, with its name appearing on match-day jerseys.

Selected subsidiaries

(source Rakuten Inc.[65])

Credit card fraud

In 2013, hundreds of Rakuten customers reported fraudulent credit card charges after making purchases from the site.[68][69] New Jersey police confirmed at least eight victims who were defrauded of $10,000 and had their social security numbers exposed and used to open accounts at online suppliers.[70]

See also


  1. 1 2 "Info: Rakuten" - Rakuten Annual Reports for FY 2015
  2. "Gross Merchandise Sales & Number of Employees", Rakuten
  3. "Business to Business to Consumer" Techopedia.
  4. "expanding footprint reaches America." Retailing Today. 5 June 2013.
  5. "Rakuten". Jeffrey's Japanese English Dictionary Server. Retrieved 13 February 2013.
  6. Rakuten Annual Reports for FY 2012, Rakuten
  7. Gross Merchandise Sales and Number of Employees, Rakuten, Inc.
  8. "Profile: Rakuten, Inc.", Bloomberg
  9. Overview, Rakuten, Inc.
  10. Swisher, Kara. "Exclusive: Japan's Rakuten Wins the Heart of Pinterest in $100M Funding Race With $1.5B Valuation" All Things D. 16 May 2012
  11. Martin, Rick. "Rakuten Invests in Russian e-Retailer O-zon.ru." Tech in Asia. 9 September 2011.
  12. Rao, Leena. "AHAlife Raises $10.1M To Curate And Sell Hard-To-Find, Luxury Products From Around The World." TechCrunch. 26 April 2012.
  13. Swisher, Kara. "Japan’s Rakuten Ups Its Stake in the Rebranded Grommet." All Things D. 14 May 2013.
  14. "Rakuten to Move Corporate Headquarters to Accommodate Growth:Rakuten, Inc.". Rakuten, Inc. Retrieved 2015-12-28.
  15. http://www.espnfc.com/barcelona/story/2997556/barcelona-agree-four-year-shirt-sponsorship-deal-with-rakuten
  16. Leesa-nguansuk, Suchit, "Click till you drop: Japan's Rakuten plots e-commerce world domination", Bangkok Post, February 15, 2012
  17. 1 2 Ishida, Michiyo, "Rakuten posts 8% rise in Q1 operating profit", Channel NewsAsia, 12 May 2011
  18. Olson, Parmy, "Rakuten's Mikitani To Take Over Tokyo Broadcasting?", Forbes, October 13, 2005
  19. "Annual Financial Report (Consolidated) for the First Quarter of Fiscal 2011 Rakuten, Inc.", May 12, 2011. "As a result of this verdict, Rakuten sold the shares in Tokyo Broadcasting System Holdings, Inc. to that company on May 10, 2011 at a price of ¥1,294 per share, which was the amount stipulated in the rulings of the Tokyo District Court and the Tokyo High Court."
  20. "Share Price for TBS Buy-back of Rakuten-held Stocks Finally Decided", Rakuten Inc. Press release, April 20, 2011
  21. Toto, Serkan, "Japan's Rakuten: Can The Biggest E-Commerce Site You Never Heard Of Become a Threat for Amazon Globally?", TechCrunch, Sunday, July 5th, 2009
  22. "Rakuten, Leading Japanese E-Commerce Portal, to Acquire LinkShare, Leading U.S. Performance-Based E-Commerce Company", PR Newswire, September 5, 2005
  23. Hyuga, Takahiko; Sekioka, Tomomi, "Rakuten to Acquire LinkShare for $425 Million", Bloomberg News, September 5, 2005
  24. "Rakuten LinkShare: Leading Performance Marketing Network Debuts New Logo", Business Wire, Feb 23, 2012
  25. "Rakuten to hold all formal internal meetings in English | The Japan Times Online". Search.japantimes.co.jp. 2010-05-18. Retrieved 2011-10-04.
  26. "Rakuten to make English official language inside company by end of 2012", The Mainichi Daily News, July 1, 2010 (archived 2010)
  27. Wauters, Robin (2010-06-17). "Rakuten to acquire France's PriceMinister for approximately €200 million". TechCrunch (Eu.techcrunch.com). Retrieved 2011-10-04.
  28. May 20th, 2010 (2010-05-20). "Buy.com Gets Acquired By Japanese E-Commerce Giant Rakuten For $250 Million". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2011-10-04.
  29. "Japan's Rakuten to Acquire Buy.com", The Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2010
  30. Thibault, Marie, "Skyping With a Japanese Billionaire", Forbes, January 28, 2010
  31. "RAKUTEN starts new business in CHINA with BIDU-O", Japan Press, January 27, 2010
  32. The hidden cost of online shopping, Patrick Barkham and Simon Bowers, The Guardian, London, 9 December, 2010.Retrieved: 27 December 2012.
  33. Published Wednesday, Sep 21 2011, 12:43 BST (2011-09-21). "Play.com bought by Japanese firm Rakuten for £25m — Media News". Digital Spy. Retrieved 2011-10-04.
  34. Ozon.ru wins biggest Russian e-commerce investment, Reuters news agency, 8 September 2011.Retrieved: 27 December 2012.
  35. "японская школа торговли". Expert Magazine, Russia.
  36. Trout, Christopher, "Rakuten signs agreement to purchase Kobo", Engadget, Nov 8th 2011
  37. Martin, Rick, "Japanese Online Retail Giant Rakuten Set to Acquire eBook Service Kobo", Penn-Olson reports, November 9, 2011
  38. "Indigo Announces Completion of Kobo Sale", Bloomberg, Jan 11th 2012
  39. "Exclusive: Japan’s Rakuten Wins the Heart of Pinterest in $100M Funding Race With $1.5B Valuation", All things digital, 17 May 2012
  40. "Rakuten adquiere Wuaki.tv [Spanish]", Wuaki.tv Blog, 17 June 17, 2012.Retrieved 27 December 2012
  41. Rakuten Acquires Alpha Direct Services, Rakuten corporate blog, 7 November 2012.Retrieved 27 December 2012
  42. "Kobo Acquires Aquafadas to bring more Comics and Kids Books into Digital Form". goodereader.com. Retrieved 2015-06-01.
  43. All Rakuten Services Rakuten corporate website, Undated.Retrieved: 27 December 2012.
  44. Japan's Rakuten Ups Its Stake in the Rebranded Grommet - Kara Swisher - Commerce. AllThingsD (2013-05-14). Retrieved on 2013-09-19.
  45. Online Marketplaces - Don’t call me ‘daily’: The Grommet drops the chronological element in its rebranding. Internet Retailer. Retrieved on 2013-09-21.
  46. Rakuten Acquires U.S.-based Logistics Company Webgistix | | Fulfilling eCommerce. Webgistix.com (2013-06-05). Retrieved on 2013-09-19.
  47. "Rakuten extends its focus on entertainment after buying Singapore-based video service Viki". The Next Web. Retrieved September 2, 2013.
  48. Petition for Choice in Ecommerce
  49. Choice in eCommerce
  50. http://www.trustedshops.co.uk/news/online-retailers-prepare-to-fight-the-sales-ban/
  51. http://www.toyworldmag.co.uk/news/2013/07/ebay-asks-retailers-to-back-choice-in-ecommerce-campaign
  52. http://www.webretailer.com/news/1765-choice-in-ecommerce-campaigns-for-resale.asp
  53. http://www.webretailer.com/news/1777-choice-in-ecommerce-interview.asp
  54. BILD, Online-Händler kämpfen gegen Hersteller-Boykott, 16.07.2013
  55. eCommerce Magazin 7-2013, Online-Handel gründet Initiative gegen Verkauftsverbot, 17.07.2013
  56. Online-Händler stemmen sich gegen Verkaufsverbote
  57. "Japanese Internet Giant Rakuten Acquires Viber For $900M". TechCrunch. February 13, 2014. Retrieved February 14, 2014.
  58. "Rakuten to Open Doors to Rakuten CAFE on May 29:Rakuten, Inc.". Rakuten, Inc. Retrieved 2015-12-28.
  59. "Rakuten Marketing Acquires DC Storm for Omni-channel Attribution, Measurement and Tag Management". Reuters. May 29, 2014. Retrieved June 4, 2014.
  60. Bensinger, Greg (November 11, 2014). "Japan's Rakuten Buys Startup as It Mulls U.S. Entry". Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04.
  61. Rakuten says to buy U.S. rebate site operator Ebates for $1 billion. Reuters, 9 September 2014
  62. "Rakuten To Put Its Bitnet Investment To Work And Accept Bitcoin Worldwide". TechCrunch. March 17, 2015. Retrieved March 17, 2015. In September 2015 Rakuten, having outgrown its office towers in Shinagawa-ku, moved to a new headquarters in Futako-Tamagawa. Dubbed Crimson House, the new headquarters overlooks a very pleasant, upscale area of Tokyo.
  63. "Rakuten to close Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia marketplaces, lay off about 150 staff". Techniasia. February 12, 2016. Retrieved February 20, 2016.
  64. "Rakuten Reviews Operations to Ensure European Business is Future Fit". Techniasia. June 7, 2016. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
  65. About: Rakuten Group, Rakuten, Inc.
  66. FreeCause website
  67. ShowTime (Japan)
  68. http://finance.yahoo.com/news/rakuten-com-customers-reporting-credit-000531825.html
  69. Here’s Everything We Know About The Rakuten/Buy.com Credit Card Breaches
  70. Bogota police warn website users of suspicious charges
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