Rakuten jumps into the airline business with an 18% stake buy in budget carrier AirAsia Japan

Rakuten jumps into the airline business with an 18% stake buy in budget carrier AirAsia Japan

Japanese e-commerce juggernaut Rakuten has huge plans to beef up its travel business which currently offers hotel bookings only, but instead of just inking deals with third-party companies to provide flight services, it is now plunging straight into the airline business.

Rakuten announced today that it is purchasing an 18% stake in AirAsia Japan, a new low-cost carrier set to be launched in the country by AirAsia. The company isn’t disclosing how much its investment amount is, but AirAsia Japan plans to raise a total capital amount of JPY7 billion ($69 million).

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AirAsia itself operates 208 routes in 18 countries throughout Asia and Australia, and has carried about 220 million passengers to date.

Through this deal, Rakuten is hoping to boost its travel offerings under Rakuten Travel, which now boasts 29,250 member hotels and has 17 offices in Japan, as well as 20 more offices across 12 overseas markets. The company also revealed that it is aiming to develop its business as a travel provider in Southeast Asia.

Rakuten has been aggressively expanding into other parallel services as it seeks to “become the number one global Internet service company,” a vision that Shin Hasegawa, the global vice chief marketing officer, told TNW about previously. It has snapped up a range of companies in its bid to create an internet ecosystem for its users all over the world — including messaging app Viber, tablet maker Kobo and global video site Viki.

Headline image via KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images

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