Rakuten acquires French logistics firm to speed European e-commerce deliveries

Rakuten said its purchae of Alpha Direct Services will allow its retailers to provide next-day deliveries in Europe

Japan's Rakuten said Tuesday it will acquire a French logistics company that will allow it to provide same-day deliveries in Paris as well as next-day services across Europe.

Rakuten said it will buy Alpha Direct Service, or ADS, whose clients include Nestle and L'Oreal. The Japanese Internet conglomerate said it will use the new logistics capacity with its French shopping site, Priceminister, and other properties in the region.

ADS operates two large shipping centers near Paris, which together can handle 180,000 packages a day and said it has the ability to rapidly expand outside of France into Europe. The company was founded in 2002.

Rakuten's main business model in Japan and abroad is operating giant online shopping malls, which offer hosting, e-commerce and other services to smaller retailers. The company said ADS will allow it to provide faster shipping services for its merchant customers.

Rakuten hinted it may expand further in Europe in a press release announcing the deal. The company quoted its CEO as saying the acquisition "will further empower merchants using Rakuten's marketplaces, as well as supporting future marketplaces."

The company also said it could also incorporate technology from ADS, including its robot automation, into its business at home in Japan and abroad.

Rakuten owns one of Japan's largest online markets, hosting Internet shops for smaller retailers as well as its own travel and investing services. The company is a well-known brand in the country, with its own professional baseball team.

The Internet firm has expanded aggressively in recent years, including the purchase of Canadian e-reader company Kobo announced last year. Since 2010, Rakuten has acquired six companies in Europe, including U.K. e-commerce site Play.com and an 80 percent stake in Tradoria, a large online shopping platform in Germany.

In May, Rakuten announced it would lead a US$100 million investment in social photo-sharing site Pinterest. The company also runs Buy.com in the U.S.

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