Rakuten Claims ‘1 Billion Members’, Experiences Comparatively Slow Growth in 2016

Rakuten published its earnings release for the 2016 financial year today. Rakuten, which had a hard time trying to go international over the last couple of years saw global GMS grow by just 17.1% year over year. (Consolidated revenue grew by 11.9% year over year.)

Growth of monthly unique purchasers seem to flatline (which is not bad per se; declining growth would be bad obviously):

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Not surprisingly, Rakuten is celebrating its existing customers using Rakuten Card to pay; Rakuten is still heavily leaning on its Japanese home market and the ways the company can extract money from its existing customer base (again, not bad per se, but no hyper growth area either):

rakuten card.png

(Rakuten Card also launched in the US in 2014.)

All in all, Rakuten reached “1 billion members”, the company claimed:

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..a rather meaningless number, given that..:

a.) Viber users and Rakuten customers can’t be compared meaningfully, the former being users of a free service while the latter being people buying stuff. (Rakuten bought Viber, a chat/VoIP app, for $900 million in 2014. The ridiculous adding up has tradition, from back then: “Privately held Viber, run from Cyprus by Israeli entrepreneur Talmon Marco, will add 300 million users to Rakuten’s existing 200 million users, Mikitani told reporters in Tokyo.”)

b.) Maybe some Rakuten customers are also Viber users?

c.) Same goes for video streaming services Viki and Rakuten Wuaki.

Global GTV grew by 18% year over year. For comparison, the far larger Amazon, which slowly morphs into a marketplace itself, grew by 27% in 2016. (From $107 billion to $136 billion)

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Rakuten’s US business (Rakuten.com, formerly Buy.com) becomes profitable:

rakuten US.png

Here are the results for Q4/16:

Rakuten Q4 2016.png

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Here is the PDF presentation and more at Rakuten’s investor relations site.

Rakuten remains being a fascinating Japanese e-commerce juggernaut which has some interesting ideas but nonetheless still experiences no real success in breaking through internationally.

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