June 17, 2010 / 8:10 AM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 2-Rakuten to buy French online mall in global expansion

* Rakuten to pay $246 mln to acquire PriceMinister

* Latest move to expand overseas after Buy.com purchase

* Not cheap, but a good move - analyst

* Shares end down 0.9 pct before news, vs Nikkei 0.7 pct fall (Adds analyst comment, background)

By Nobuhiro Kubo

TOKYO, June 17 (Reuters) - Japanese online mall operator Rakuten 4755.Q said on Thursday that it would buy French Internet retailer PriceMinister for 200 million euros ($246 million) in its latest move to expand abroad.

Rakuten and other Japanese Internet retailers have been revving up efforts to set up shop overseas, as Japan’s declining population dampens prospects for growth across a broad spectrum of industries.

France will be the sixth country in which Rakuten is to provide e-commerce services, and the firm plans to enter four more countries by the end of the year.

This year, it has also acquired U.S. online retailer Buy.com Inc and teamed up with Chinese search engine Baidu (BIDU.O) to operate an online mall in China. [ID:nTOE64J06Z]

Rival Yahoo Japan (4689.T) agreed last month with China’s Taobao to launch two online platforms to cross sell into each others’ markets. [ID:nTOE64506U]

Rakuten said in a statement that said it would acquire the entire stake in Paris-based PriceMinister, which had revenue of 39.9 million euros in 2009 and is France’s biggest online mall operator in terms of monthly visitors. PriceMinister also provides services in the UK and Spain.

“This is not a cheap acquisition (for Rakuten), but it is good for them to have a base in Europe,” said Hiroshi Naya, an analyst at Ichiyoshi Research Institute. “This is also a good move as they would have employees from various cultures and backgrounds. Rakuten wants to be a global company.”

Chief Executive Hiroshi Mikitani, who holds an MBA from Harvard University, told Japanese business magazine Toyo Keizai in an interview published this week that “executive officers who can’t learn how to speak English within two years will be fired.”

Shares of Rakuten closed down 0.9 percent to 63,800 yen before the announcement, while the Nikkei average lost 0.7 percent. (Reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

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