Rakuten to sell 8.32% stake to Japan Post in e-commerce war - GulfToday

Rakuten to sell 8.32% stake to Japan Post in e-commerce war


Hiroshi Mikitani and Hiroya Masuda during a press conference in Tokyo on Friday. Asscociated Press

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

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, and is part of a 242-billion-yen ($2.2 billion) share sale to companies including Tencent and Walmart.

A former state-owned utility that was later privatised, Japan Post Holdings has a presence on almost all Japanese high streets, with its postal unit 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.

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, will take 3.65% in Rakuten through third-party allotment, with Walmart also to buy shares.

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

Japanese shares rose for a fourth straight session on Friday, as technology stocks bounced back while expectations that low interest rates and big fiscal spending would continue to support global economic growth kept investor sentiment supported.

The Nikkei 225 Index ended up 1.73% at 29,717.83. The broader Topix rose 1.36% to 1,951.06. For the week, the Nikkei and Topix gained nearly 3% each. Technology and energy shares rebounded from recent losses following their U.S. peers, but that was partly offset by selling in the real estate and financial sectors.

Overall sentiment remained positive because of strong expectations that the global economic growth will accelerate as more countries vaccinate their citizens for the novel coronavirus.

“Japanese stocks are still in an upward trend, but the US economy is bouncing back so quickly that eventually the Federal Reserve will have to start talking about tapering bond purchases,” said Norihiro Fujito, chief investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities. “When that happens, we will see an 8%-10% correction in Japanese stocks, but the market will quickly bounce back because global growth is getting stronger.”

Shares in e-commerce company Rakuten Inc jumped by 8.64% after reports it would form a capital alliance with Japan Post Holdings Co, whose shares rose 4.89%. Start-up investor SoftBank Group Corp rose 3.35% after South Korean e-commerce company Coupang, in which SoftBank holds a 35.1% stake, was valued at around $109 billion in its debut on Thursday.

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