Facebook to acquire WhatsApp for $16B in cash and stock

MarkZuckerberg

Facebook will acquire messaging company WhatsApp for $16 billion, according to an SEC filing Wednesday. The purchase price includes roughly $4 billion in cash and $12 billion in Facebook stock. An additional $3 billion in restricted stock could be paid out over four years to WhatsApp employees.

This is the largest acquisition the social media company has made to date, nearly 16 times as much as the company paid for Instagram in April 2012.

In a blog post, Facebook pointed to some numbers to help illustrate its decision to acquire WhatsApp. The app has 450 million active users, 70 percent of whom are active in a given day, and is adding over a million new registered users each day. And messaging volume within the app is approaching levels equal to SMS messaging globally. That level of adoption seems to be the clincher for Facebook, which said, “The acquisition supports Facebook and WhatsApp’s shared mission to bring more connectivity and utility to the world by delivering core internet services efficiently and affordably.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg echoed that sentiment on an investor call Wednesday evening, stressing WhatsApp’s growth and power as a way for Facebook to better serve its mobile and global markets. He also cited the acquisition as a way to strengthen Facebook’s global connectivity initiative internet.org: “We will work hard together over the coming years to help build its users. As part of this, we hope WhatsApp will help us connect the entire world.”

According to a statement by WhatsApp co-founder and CEO Jan Koum, the app — currently available for most major smartphone brands — won’t change:

“WhatsApp will remain autonomous and operate independently. You can continue to enjoy the service for a nominal fee. You can continue to use WhatsApp no matter where in the world you are, or what smartphone you’re using. And you can still count on absolutely no ads interrupting your communication.”

As part of the deal, Koum will join Facebook’s board.

Sequoia Capital, the only investor in WhatsApp’s 2011 funding round of $8 million, also released a statement regarding the acquisition. VC Jim Goetz said, “From the time WhatsApp had fewer than ten users, Jan and Brian have been committed to building an enduring service. Now, on their way to a billion, they are just getting started.”

This story was updated several times Wednesday afternoon as more information became available. The headline and lead of the story were corrected to note that the purchase price was $16 billion, and the additional $3 billion is in restricted stock units.

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