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Major Asian messaging firm in talks to buy Viber, report claims

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The messaging platform Viber may soon be acquired for between $300 and 400 million, according to a Tuesday report in Israel’s Calcalist. Not bad, considering Viber achieved its 200 million-strong registered user base without outside investment.

According to that piece — and Calcalist is generally well-plugged-in — Viber’s potential buyer is a big Asian instant messaging outfit. That means it’s China’s WeChat, Japan’s Line or Korea’s KakaoTalk, though as TechEU has pointed out, it could also be Samsung, which has a chat app called ChatON.

Out of those options, I see WeChat, run by Shenzhen-based Tencent, as Viber’s most likely suitor. One of the Israeli/Cypriot company’s greatest strengths is that it has a fully fledged desktop app that is impressively integrated with the mobile app while also making Viber a credible Skype(s msft) rival.

Kakaotalk and Line both already have PC apps, while WeChat does not and could use the tech — properly blending desktop and mobile functionality is not a trivial matter.

All of those Asian players are working hard to take on the biggest beasts in the mobile messaging business: WhatsApp (with 400 million monthly active users) and Facebook(s fb) Messenger. The impact of this race for users extends beyond the mobile messaging space, too – in many ways, these platforms are becoming the new social networks, geared toward small groups rather than broadcasting to hundreds of contacts.

Anyhow, a Viber spokesman told me CEO Talmon Marco “says he has no knowledge of any of the items mentioned in the story” — so let’s see what comes of this.

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