Facebook said on Wednesday it was buying the fast-growing mobile messaging service WhatsApp for up to $19 billion in cash and stock, expanding the global footprint of the social networking giant.The deal bolsters the world’s biggest social network with WhatsApp’s 450 million users.
It is Facebook‘s biggest acquisition and comes less than two years after Mark Zuckerberg’s firm raised $16 billion in the richest tech sector public stock offering.
The purchase includes $12 billion in Facebook shares and $4 billion in cash. It calls for an additional $3 billion in restricted stock units to be granted to WhatsApp founders and employees that will vest over four years, making the deal worth up to $19 billion.
“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,” an online statement by Facebook read.
Facebook says it is keeping WhatsApp as a separate service, with its own board, just as it did with mobile photo-sharing service Instagram, which it bought for about $715.3 million in 2012.
Facebook reportedly sought to acquire another hot messaging firm, Snapchat, for $3 billion last year.
‘Incredibly valuable’ service
“WhatsApp is on a path to connect one billion people. The services that reach that milestone are all incredibly valuable,” said Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and chief executive.
“I’ve known [WhatsApp founder] Jan [Koum] for a long time and I’m excited to partner with him and his team to make the world more open and connected.”
WhatsApp is a cross-platform mobile app which allows users to exchange messages without having to pay telecom charges.
“Almost five years ago we started WhatsApp with a simple mission: building a cool product used globally by everybody. Nothing else mattered to us,” Koum, a Ukrainian immigrant who dropped out of college, said in a blog post.
“Today we are announcing a partnership with Facebook that will allow us to continue on that simple mission.
“Doing this will give WhatsApp the flexibility to grow and expand, while giving me, [co-founder] Brian [Acton], and the rest of our team more time to focus on building a communications service that’s as fast, affordable and personal as possible.”