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Kobo to be acquired by Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten

Kobo announced Tuesday it has entered into a definite agreement under which it will be acquired by the Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten. The deal is expected to close in early 2012.

According to a press release, Rakuten intends to “acquire 100 per cent of total issued and outstanding shares of Kobo for US$315 million in cash.” As part of the agreement, the e-reading platform will continue as a stand-alone operation, maintaining its Toronto headquarters and employees under the leadership of Kobo CEO Michael Serbinis.

In the press release, Serbinis said:

“From a business and cultural perspective this is a perfect match….We share a common vision of creating a content experience that is both global and social. Rakuten is already one of the world’s largest e-commerce platforms, while Kobo is the most social e-book service on the market and one of the world’s largest e-book stores with over 2.5 million titles. This transaction will greatly strengthen our position in our current markets and allow us to diversify quickly into other countries and e-commerce categories.

Kobo was founded in 2009 by Indigo Books & Music before it was spun off into a separate company 10 months later, with Indigo remaining as the majority shareholder. Indigo will receive approximately $140 million to $150 million in the Rakuten deal. In a separate press release, Indigo CEO and chair of Kobo Heather Reisman said:

“Notwithstanding the sale, Indigo will maintain a very strong relationship with Kobo, supporting the products and the services both in-store and online…. The success of Kobo confirms that Indigo is a great brand and a strong platform on which we can continue to innovate and grow.”

In October, Kobo announced it would be offering self-publishing services and launched the Kobo Vox, a tablet to compete against the Kindle Fire and iPad.