Rakuten, Inc. (楽天株式会社 Rakuten Kabushiki-gaisha ) (JASDAQ: 4755) is the biggest online shopping mall operator in Japan with over 50 million registered users. The chief executive officer is Hiroshi Mikitani.
The company was founded in February 1997 as MDM, Inc. Rakuten Shopping Mall (楽天市場 Rakuten Ichiba ) started operations in May the same year. In June 1999 MDM, Inc. changed name to Rakuten, Inc. By June 2004 it was the second ranking site in Japan, as measured by unique audience, with only Yahoo! having more monthly visits.
Rakuten's 2005 revenues exceeded US$1.1 billion with operating profits of approximately $320M. The company is publicly-traded (JASDAQ: 4755) with a market capitalization ranging from $5B+ and more than 3,700 employees. Rakuten is among the top 10 largest Internet companies in the world (along with Amazon.com, InterActive Corporation (IAC), Expedia, etc.).
The Rakuten Group is a diversified Internet services group with business activities divided into six businesses:
The company holds a leadership position (#1 or #2, based on key industry metrics) in each of the businesses within the core segments.
Rakuten's online shopping business, Rakuten Ichiba, is the largest online shopping mall in Japan, and allows customers to shop more than 18 million products from over 18,000 merchants. As part of its Internationalization efforts, Rakuten Ichiba has started offering international shipping.
In October 2005, Rakuten surprised the business world by buying a 15.46% stake in Tokyo Broadcasting System, raising their ownership to over 19%, and they also planned to merge with the broadcast company. Rakuten eventually withdrew its bid and now plans to form an alliance with TBS.
In recent years, Rakuten has broadened its business interests outside of Japan. Rakuten is a significant shareholder in Ctrip, a Chinese travel site. In addition, Rakuten acquired Linkshare, a New York-based company, dealing in sales and marketing performance analysis.