Rakuten Confirms Talks to Buy Ebates

NEW YORK (The Deal) -- Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten on Saturday confessed it's in talks to buy San Francisco rebate site Ebates to expand outside Japan as it hunts for growth.

Rakuten confirmed the talks but said a deal hadn't yet been approved by its board and that it would make an announcement as soon as any agreement was reached.

The announcement followed a handful of reports saying Rakuten would soon unveil a 100 billion yen ($950 million) agreement to buy Ebates, which is owned by venture capitalists August Capital, Canaan Partners and Foundation Capital.

Rakuten, run by billionaire founder Hiroshi Mikitani, once hoped to rival Amazon.com (AMZN)  and eBay (EBAY)  as well as China's Alibaba.com Inc. as an online retailer. But the billionaire has failed to gain a significant foothold in the U.S. despite the several deals including the 2010, $250 million acquisition of Buy.com Inc., and an attempt to take on Amazon and its top-selling Kindle e-reader directly with the $315 million purchase of Canadian e-book reader maker Kobo a year later.

Having come up short in retailing, Rakuten has instead tried to become a one-stop shop for anything Internet, whether it's shopping, messaging or even streaming video.

The company's latest acquisition was a March agreement to buy unprofitable Internet messaging service Viber Media for $900 million. Last year it also bought San Francisco streaming company Viki and it also poured $100 million into social media site Pinterest two years ago.

Ebates offers online shoppers discounts or cash back on items bought through its website at retailers including Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) , Amazon and Expedia (EXPE) .

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