Rakuten buys shopping site Ebates for $1 billion

Online mall aims for world's largest selection of goods

Japanese online shopping giant Rakuten has added another company to its cart with the acquisition of Ebates, a cash-back shopping website.

The US$1 billion cash deal will give Rakuten 100 percent of Ebates voting stock.

Founded in 1999, Ebates is a membership-based shopping portal headquartered in San Francisco that offers rebates and coupons from other large retailers such as Amazon.com and Walmart.

Members can get deals on everything from patio furniture to hotel accommodation.

"Rakuten has the Super Points loyalty program, which is one of the most popular loyalty programs in Japan," a spokesman for Rakuten wrote in an email. "Ebates is the largest online cash-back loyalty program in North America. Together, they will allow Rakuten and Ebates to offer their members the most empowering and rewarding shopping experience globally."

The partnership will give customers the world's largest selection of products in a broad range of categories, he added.

The purchase highlights Rakuten's recent acquisitions spree, which included messaging app Viber , gobbled up for $900 million in February.

Rakuten earlier picked up Canada's ebook platform Kobo, Spanish video service Wuaki.tv, digital content platform Viki, logistics firm Webgistix and Buy.com.

Led by founder and CEO Hiroshi Mikitani, Rakuten has long seen Amazon.com as a rival. It been trying to diversify its revenue streams so that it relies less on Japan, branching out overseas and into a variety of industries including travel, banking, credit cards and professional sports.

In July, it announced it was acquiring an 18 percent stake in low-cost airline AirAsia Japan.

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Tim Hornyak

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