Although it was always independent, the fate of Kobo became increasingly uncertain after Borders declared bankruptcy and shuttered, leaving its e-book reader partner rather alone.
Now, Kobo Inc. has been bought out by Rakuten, one of the world’s top three e-commerce companies based on revenue. The Japanese firm picked up Kobo to fit in line with its plan to expand "borderless e-commerce business" globally and add a market for downloading digital media -- starting with e-books, evidently.
Hiroshi Mikitani, Chairman and CEO of Rakuten, explained with a few more details in a statement:
We are very excited about this next step. Kobo provides one of the world’s most communal eBook reading experiences with its innovative integration of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter; while Rakuten offers Kobo unparalleled opportunities to extend its reach through some of the world’s largest regional e-commerce companies, including Buy.com in the US, Tradoria in Germany, Rakuten Brazil, Rakuten Taiwan, Lekutian in China, TARAD in Thailand, and Rakuten Belanja Online in Indonesia, and of course, Rakuten Ichiba in Japan.
Rakuten is paying $315 million in U.S. dollars for 100 percent of Kobo's total issued and oustanding shares. When the deal is done, Kobo will keep its headquarters, management team and employees based in Toronto, Ontario.
The acquisition is expected to be approved during the first quarter of 2012.
This really might be the best and safest move for Kobo at this point. There's not much of a hope that even the Vox tablet could keep up with either the Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet -- even if both are only going to be available in the United States initially. The other two just have more of the financial and name recognition that many -- at least U.S. -- consumers are looking for.
But these plans for an international expansion offer Kobo a longer life and perhaps a place to fit in as more of a niche product where the Kindle and Nook, among other e-book readers, are not available.
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