Walmart signs Japan online grocery deal with Rakuten

The Rakuten partnership will also see Walmart selling 6 million e-books and audiobooks offered by Kobo, Rakuten's subsidiary, on its USA stores, giving the retailer a grip on what has traditionally been a market led by Amazon.

Kobo was founded in Canada and sold to Japanese ecommerce giant Rakuten in 2011 - which rushed to beat Amazon to its local market with e-readers.

As part of the deal, Walmart will start selling Aura-branded ereaders made by Kobo, a division of Rakuten, in stores and online at First, we'll launch an online grocery delivery joint venture in Japan and, second, we're adding an entirely new category to our USA assortment - eBooks and audiobooks, powered by Rakuten's digital book business, Kobo. Walmart has operated a grocery delivery service in Japan with its stores fulfilling the orders.

"We are adding an entirely new category to our USA assortment-e-books and audiobooks".

Walmart, US-based the parent company of United Kingdom grocer Asda that is also known as the world's largest retailer, said the new service with Rakuten will launch in the latter half of 2018.

Walmart is "constantly exploring new ways to make every day easier for customers by offering great experiences in stores, online, via mobile", the company's president and chief executive, Doug McMillon, said in the statement. Working with Rakuten Kobo enables us to quickly and efficiently launch a full eBook and audiobook catalog on to provide our customers with additional choices alongside our assortment of physical books. Ebooks and audiobooks bought through Walmart's site will be DRM-protected, meaning you'll only be able to read them on a Kobo device, or a Walmart-Kobo app for desktop, iOS and Android devices.

Today, we announced a strategic alliance with Rakuten, the number one e-commerce company in Japan.

Mikitani said, "As global leaders in e-commerce and offline shopping, Rakuten and Walmart are uniquely positioned to empower our customers around the world with innovative services". The new service is planned to be launched in the latter half of 2018.

Sato, however, expressed doubt when it came to Kobo's chances of success in the U.S.

The deal includes opening a combined e-commerce fulfillment center in the Tokyo area to deliver groceries to a wider region. Walmart will also sell digital book cards in stores, enabling more than 4,000 stores to carry a broader selection of books for customers. "I'm not sure how Kobo will fare in the U.S.", Sato said.

Kobo is a Rakuten subsidiary.