September 21, 2011, 11:33 AM

Japan’s Rakuten to buy U.K.-based online retailer Play.com

The acquisition marks the latest global e-commerce investment for the owner of Buy.com

Thad Rueter

Senior Editor

Lead Photo

Japan-based Rakuten Inc. today said it will buy U.K. e-commerce operator Play.com for 25 million pounds (US$39 million).

The acquisition of the retailer, which sells music, DVDs, books, consumer electronics, office equipment, mobile phones, toys and other products, marks the latest global e-commerce investment by Rakuten, which in 2010 bought U.S. e-retailer Buy.com Inc.

Play.com, No. 26 in the Internet Retailer Europe 300 Guide, had online sales of $660 million last year, up 18% from the year before.  Buy.com is No. 32 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

“The U.K. market is one of Europe’s largest and most mature e-commerce markets. Play.com is not only a pioneer in the market, but also one of the U.K.’s most successful e-commerce businesses,” says Hiroshi Mikitani, chairman and CEO of the Japan-based e-marketplace operator. “We aim to leverage our e-commerce strength and experience to further expand and develop Play.com’s business model and channel its loyal user base, merchants, and deep product offerings into Rakuten’s global e-commerce network.”

Rakuten says it will buy up all of Play.com’s stock.

Earlier this month, Rakuten was part of a group of investors that raised $100 million for Russia-based online retailer Ozon.ru, which, like Play.com, sells a wide variety of products.  The investment followed Rakuten’s purchases in June of a 75% stake in Brazil-based Ikeda, which sells e-commerce technology and services to more than 100 of the largest online retailers in that country. Rakuten this year also acquired 80% of Germany-based Tradoria GmbH, which sells an e-commerce platform. In 2010, Rakuten bought France-based e-commerce operator PriceMinister.

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