Walmart, Rakuten unveil alliance on e-books, groceries

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"Rakuten is a strong e-commerce business and we're excited to collaborate with the top online shopping destination in Japan", McMillon said.

The titles will include everything from New York Times best-sellers to children's books and will be offered through a new Walmart-Kobo app, Michael Tamblyn, Rakuten Kobo Chief Executive Officer, told Reuters in an interview. Walmart will be Kobo's "exclusive" United States partner, meaning it will be the biggest retailer to sell Kobo e-readers in the country, along with access to its library of over six million e-books.

Walmart shares closed higher in the US Thursday, as one of the world's largest grocers unveiled it had agreed a new online grocery delivery deal with Japan's Rakuten.

"We have always been a destination for entertainment including digital content - whether movies through VUDU or the digital game cards we sell in our stores. eBooks and audiobooks are a great addition to our assortment", said Scott Hilton, chief revenue officer for Walmart U.S. eCommerce.

Its alliance with Walmart will also see the companies launch an online grocery delivery business called Rakuten Seiyu Netsuper in Japan later this year.

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Seven & i Holdings Co., Japan's largest operator of convenience stores, for example, announced a partnership past year with Askul start a fresh food delivery service. Walmart-Rakuten will open a warehouse to service these orders in addition to using Seiyu stores, the companies said.

"We are excited to partner with Walmart because of its commitment to creating the best solutions to serve customers with low prices", Mikitani added.

Besides offering fresh produce and daily products, the companies said the new service plans to offer convenience-focused items like cut vegetables, partially-prepared foods and meal kits.

Walmart operates 11,600 stores under almost 59 banners in 28 countries, and ecommerce websites in 11 countries.

Rakuten has a total of 14,000 employees and is the biggest ecommerce firm in Japan. Seiyu, one of Japan's largest supermarket chains, operates traditional supermarkets, hypermarkets and one general merchandise store in Japan.

Kobo is a global leader in eBooks and audiobooks with almost six million titles from thousands of publishers - everything from children's books to New York Times best sellers and indie titles.

Kobo, which had tried to make a big USA breakthrough at the start of the decade in a partnership with now bankrupt bookseller Borders, offers six million e-books.

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