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Rakuten to become largest major shareholder in Gurunavi under expanded deal

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Rakuten to become largest major shareholder in Gurunavi under expanded deal

Japanese e-commerce and internet company Rakuten Inc. said May 22 that it agreed to acquire additional shares of local restaurant bookings company Gurunavi Inc. as part of a new agreement to strengthen their business alliance.

The deal is an expansion of the two companies' alliance agreement that they entered into in July 2018. Rakuten acquired 4,677,600 Gurunavi shares, representing 9.6% of the company, as part of the transaction. The agreement also saw the integration of the two companies' customer loyalty programs Rakuten Super Points and Gurunavi Points and the promotion of various collaborations in online reservations.

Under the latest transaction, Rakuten will purchase 2,339,700 additional Gurunavi common shares, or 4.8% of the company's outstanding shares, from Gurunavi Chairman Hisao Taki in an off-market negotiated transaction. Gurunavi said in a separate release that Hisao Taki will cease to be the largest major shareholder in Gurunavi following the transaction.

Rakuten will raise its stake in Gurunavi to 14.4%, or 14.99% shareholder voting rights, following the deal with Chairman Taki, making it the largest major shareholder in Gurunavi, effective May 31.

The companies did not disclose the financial details of the transaction.

In connection with the expanded business alliance, Rakuten and Gurunavi will work together to improve the value of the Gurunavi brand. The companies will also exchange data collected by both companies in relation to online reservations, as well as enhance sales and referrals to Rakuten and Gurunavi's services to each customer and member restaurants.

Additionally, Gurunavi will propose the appointment of Rakuten-nominated directors to Gurunavi's shareholders at the company's annual meeting June 19. Rakuten's nominees to Gurunavi's board include Rakuten's managing executive officers, Akio Sugihara and Naho Kono, as well as Executive Vice President Kazunori Takeda.

Sugihara is expected to be named president and representative director at Gurunavi, subject to shareholder approval, succeeding Seiichiro Kubo, who is expected to retire.

Rakuten said Gurunavi will also propose abolishing its executive director system and to instead delegate authority to executive officers.