Rakuten, owner of Play.com, Wuaki.tv and Kobo, buys Viber

Rakuten, the company that owns Play.com, movie streaming service Wuaki.tv and makes the Kobo eReader, has announced it is buying Skype competitor Viber for $900m.

In a deal that echoes eBay buying Skype in 2006, the company has confirmed it is buying the internet-based call service because it "perfectly complements" its digital strategy.

"I am tremendously excited to welcome Viber to the Rakuten family. Viber delivers the most consistently high-quality and convenient messaging and VoIP experience available," said Hiroshi Mikitani, the company's chairman and CEO.

"Additionally, Viber has introduced a great sticker market and has tremendous potential as a gaming platform. Simply put, Viber understands how people actually want to engage and have built the only service that truly delivers on all fronts.

"This makes Viber the ideal total consumer engagement platform for Rakuten as we seek to bring our deep understanding of the consumer to vast new audiences through our dynamic ecosystem of Internet Services."

It is not clear yet what Rakuten is planning with the new acquisition: whether it plans to continue running the company as is, or try to integrate it into the company's range of products or services.

Rakuten said the purchase of Viber Media, run from Cyprus by Israeli entrepreneur Talmon Marco, will add 300 million users to its existing 200 million user base.

The deal parallels eBay's acquisition of Skype. At the time eBay said it hoped to use the voice calling service to allow eBay sellers to talk to potential eBay customers to help improve the sales process, but that idea never took off and the company offloaded the service to Microsoft.