Walmart partners with Japanese company Rakuten

Billionaire Hiroshi Mikitani chairman and chief executive officer of Rakuten Inc. and representative director of the Japan Association of New Economy speaks at the opening of the New Economy Summit 2015 in Tokyo Japan on Tuesday

Billionaire Hiroshi Mikitani chairman and chief executive officer of Rakuten Inc. and representative director of the Japan Association of New Economy speaks at the opening of the New Economy Summit 2015 in Tokyo Japan on Tuesday

Walmart already delivers groceries in Japan through its Seiyu supermarket chain, which it acquired more than a decade ago.

The partnership aims to leverage the unique strengths and assets of the two firms "to expand consumer reach and enhance how customers are served in Japan and the USA", according to a press release Thursday.

Meanwhile, in Japan, Rakuten and Walmart subsidiary Seiyu GK have reached an agreement to establish a joint venture with the aim of launching a new online grocery delivery service to be called Rakuten Seiyu Netsuper.

"Rakuten is a strong e-commerce business and we're excited to collaborate with the top online shopping destination in Japan".

"We have always been a destination for entertainment including digital content - whether movies through VUDU or the digital game cards we sell in our stores. eBooks and audiobooks are a great addition to our assortment", said Scott Hilton, chief revenue officer for Walmart U.S. eCommerce.

Founded in 1997, Rakuten is the largest e-commerce site in Japan and among the world's largest by sales. Walmart made for a good partner because it provides scale, operational prowess and access to a large group of book customers, he said.

Soon after, Rakuten bought Kobo for US$315 million. Right now, all online orders are fulfilled in Seiyu stores. As part of this deal, Walmart will also be able to sell millions of audiobooks and e-books to Japanese customers.

You'll be able to buy Kobo's Aura-branded ebook readers in Walmart stores, and take your pick from thousands of digital titles from the superstore's website. Additional information about Walmart can be found by visiting http://corporate.walmart.com, on Facebook at http://facebook.com/walmart and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/walmart.

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President and CEO Doug McMillon and Rakuten Inc.

The Associated Press reports the company is trimming jobs in its global business, finance, human resources, merchandise, real estate and technology divisions.

Rakuten is a household name in Japan, with 93 million registered members using its marketplace.

Fresh food delivery has been around in Japan for decades but has lagged the growth seen in other areas of e-commerce.

The Japanese deal builds on Walmart's online grocery delivery efforts in the United States.

About Rakuten Kobo Inc.

The deal will give Walmart's USA customers access to Rakuten Kobo's six million ebooks and audiobooks.

Google has offered ebooks for years via its Play Store, but has never presented a real challenge to Amazon's crown. Kobo's award-wining eReaders can be found in major retail chains around the world.

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