The Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten has its eye on America.
On Tuesday, the company agreed to buy Ebates, a U.S. online rebate site that allows people to earn cash back when buying goods at stores such as Macy’s and Home Depot. The price was $1 billion.
The acquisition is the latest international move by Hiroshi Mikitani, the billionaire co-founder and chief executive of Rakuten, whose businesses also include the Rakuten online marketplace, a travel agency, credit cards and a Japanese baseball team called the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.
The spate of deals, including the $900 million acquisition of the Internet messaging application Viber this year, comes as Rakuten tries to reduce its reliance on the company’s home market.
Ebates is based in San Francisco and provides cash-back services for about 2,600 retailers. It generated revenue of $167 million last year and will give Rakuten a beachhead in the U.S. e-commerce market, where companies such as Amazon and eBay are dominant.
Rakuten, based in Tokyo, said the deal also would help expand the company’s existing loyalty program in Japan, where people can earn credits online toward discounts on future purchases.
“The combination of Rakuten and Ebates is entirely unique and will revolutionize e-commerce,” Mikitani said in a statement Tuesday.
Analysts questioned whether the Japanese e-commerce company would be able to break into a U.S. market with entrenched competitors.
Founded in 1997, Rakuten has taken steps in recent years to expand its footprint outside Japan with a series of prominent investments and acquisitions, among them the purchase of a stake in the Canadian e-book maker Kobo in 2011 and an investment in the U.S. virtual scrapbook site Pinterest in 2012.
In July, Rakuten also joined forces with the Malaysian airline AirAsia to start a low-cost carrier in Japan. Rakuten said it was buying an 18 percent stake in the venture in an effort to expand its existing travel services.