The two companies said Thursday they would form a joint venture to sell online groceries in Japan and work together to sell e-books and audiobooks in the U.S.
The move, announced Friday, will see Rakuten Inc. team up with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. subsidiary and supermarket chain Seiyu GK.
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 U.S.", according to a press release Thursday.
The collaboration includes the launch of a new online grocery delivery service in Japan beginning in the third quarter of 2018.
Walmart will start selling ereaders, ebooks, and audiobooks through a partnership with Rakuten, Japan's biggest e-commerce company.
Noting Rakuten's strengths in e-commerce, McMillon said Walmart looks forward to boosting its grocery footprint in Japan. "We look forward to expanding our grocery footprint in Japan and launching a new offering of eBooks and audiobooks for our customers in the U.S.", said Wal-Mart Stores chief executive Doug McMillon. "This informs the software and devices we create, the books and authors we promote, and also the partnerships we build".
"I believe this will be a globally unprecedented, powerful alliance", Rakuten's billionaire founder and Chief Executive Officer Hiroshi Mikitani said at the company's Tokyo headquarters, accompanied by Walmart CEO Doug McMillon.
Walmart has strengthened its foothold in Japan after striking a deal with ecommerce retailer Rakuten to launch an online delivery service in the country.
This article is being republished as part of our daily reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the USA print edition of The Wall Street Journal (January 26, 2018).
The new service will be powered by Rakuten technology, using artificial intelligence "to offer a more personalized merchandise offering", according to the statement.
Walmart will become Rakuten Kobo's exclusive mass retail partner for the Kobo brand in the US. Walmart.com will offer eBooks and audiobooks for sale later this year. Here in the United States, on the other hand, Walmart will leverage Kobo, Rakuten's digital book arm, to offer ebooks and audiobooks to its customers. In 2016, Japan was the second-largest market outside the USA for Amazon, following Germany, with sales of $10.8 billion.
For Rakuten, it's going to significantly increase sales of Kobo hardware in the US.
But Walmart is showing up late to the e-book party.
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