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Rakuten Buying E-Book Firm OverDrive for $410 Million in U.S. Push

OverDrive offers e-book rental services to libraries and schools.

Reuters / Yuya Shino

Japanese online retailer Rakuten is buying U.S. e-book company OverDrive for about $410 million, deepening its push into the U.S. market and into the “sharing economy.”

Rakuten’s announcement on Thursday about the OverDrive deal comes a week after it led a $530 million funding round for U.S ride-sharing service Lyft, signaling Rakuten’s shift in focus towards more rental-based businesses.

The acquisition of OverDrive, which currently offers e-book rental services to U.S. libraries and schools, is expected to be completed in April. It will push Rakuten’s e-book EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) for 2015 closer to profit, the company said in a statement.

“OverDrive can be described as a ‘sharing economy’ business as it shares books,” Takahito Aiki, head of Rakuten’s global e-book business, told reporters.

Aiki said that Kobo, a Canadian e-book company Rakuten bought in 2011 for $315 million, is “Phase 1” of its e-book business as it allows consumers to buy e-books. As part of “Phase 2,” OverDrive will allow libraries and schools to rent e-books, he said.

Another reason for the purchase is the firm’s aggressive drive into the U.S. market, Aiki said.

Rakuten has been on a buying spree in recent years to reduce reliance on its home market. In October it bought U.S. discount store for about $1 billion.

(Editing by Sunil Nair and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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