Japanese online retailer Rakuten plans to fight the worldwide market leader Amazon – and beat them too, even in Europe. According to CEO Hiroshi Mikitani, Rakuten has a reserve of hundreds of millions of euros for “strategic acquisitions in Europe” in 2012.
Wave of European acquisitions
In its Japanese home market, other e-commerce companies come nowhere near the Rakuten giant, but that is no longer enough for Mikitani. He told German newspaper Handelsblatt he wants to take his main worldwide competitor Amazon head-on, with Europe serving as the battlefield between the American and the Japanese e-empire.
In 2010, the very aptly named Rakuten (Japanese for “optimism”) started its conquest of Europe with French online retailer PriceMinister and last September, it bought Play.com to gain access to one of the biggest e-markets in the world: the United Kingdom. Furthermore, Rakuten has acquired Russian Ozon.ru and German Tradoria – which is now renamed to Rakuten.de.
Aiming for Amazon's heart
The assault on Amazon reached the latter's heartland as Rakuten bought Canadian e-book producer Kobo, a supplier of big European players like French Fnac, British WH Smith and German Media Markt.
Mikitani assures he is able to finance all of these acquisitions because of Rakuten's “very high cash flow”. The company is estimated to have had a 4 billion euro turnover in 2011 and a very low debt ratio.