The balance of power in the mobile messaging space is about to shift in a big way — Facebook has just announced plans to acquire WhatsApp for the equivalent of $19 billion in cash and stock. The deal will see WhatsApp run semi-independently, much like Instagram. The chat service will maintain its brand and existing offices, but it will take advantage of Facebook’s “expertise, resources and scale.” It’s safe to say that the combined entity will have a lot of clout should the deal close later this year. WhatsApp already has over 450 million active users every month; combine that with Facebook Messenger and competitors like Line suddenly appear tiny by comparison.
Facebook is purchasing messaging giant WhatsApp for $16 billion in cash and stock, according to a regulatory filing. The deal is being cut for $12 billion in Facebook shares, $4 billion in cash and an additional $3 billion in RSUs for employee retention.
A termination fee is attached to the deal that would cost Facebook $1 billion in cash and $1 billion in shares if the deal fails to pass regulatory muster.
Facebook has posted on its blog, detailing the reasoning behind the acquisition, as well. The post notes that WhatsApp will continue to operate independently and retain its brand. In addition, WhatsApp co-founder and CEO Jan Koum will join Facebook’s board.
Facebook notes that WhatsApp has over 450 million MAUs, with 70 percent of those active each day. In a staggering comparison, Facebook also notes that the messaging volume of WhatsApp approaches the SMS volume of the entire global telecom industry — and that it’s adding 1 million users a day.
“WhatsApp is on a path to connect 1 billion people. The services that reach that milestone are all incredibly valuable,” said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO in a statement.
“WhatsApp had every option in the world,” Zuckerberg continued in a post to his Facebook page, “so I’m thrilled that they chose to work with us. I’m looking forward to what Facebook and WhatsApp can do together, and to developing great new mobile services that give people even more options for connecting. I’ve also known Jan for a long time, and I know that we both share the vision of making the world more open and connected. I’m particularly happy that Jan has agreed to join the Facebook board and partner with me to shape Facebook’s future as well as WhatsApp’s.”
Jan Koum, WhatsApp co-founder and CEO, said, “WhatsApp’s extremely high user engagement and rapid growth are driven by the simple, powerful and instantaneous messaging capabilities we provide.”
Facebook specifically calls out its deal with Instagram as a template for how it will deal with WhatsApp:
Facebook fosters an environment where independent-minded entrepreneurs can build companies, set their own direction and focus on growth while also benefiting from Facebook’s expertise, resources and scale. This approach is working well with Instagram, and WhatsApp will operate in this manner. WhatsApp’s brand will be maintained; its headquarters will remain in Mountain View, CA; Jan Koum will join Facebook’s Board of Directors; and WhatsApp’s core messaging product and Facebook’s existing Messenger app will continue to operate as standalone applications.
In a post on the WhatsApp blog, Koum elaborates on that:
Here’s what will change for you, our users: nothing.
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. There would have been no partnership between our two companies if we had to compromise on the core principles that will always define our company, our vision and our product.
The note about no advertising is interesting, as that’s obviously Facebook’s primary method of monetization on its main platform — and now Instagram. WhatsApp will also keep its subscription fees, which amount to $1 per user after the first year of use.
WhatsApp investor Sequoia has also posted some information about the acquisition, specifically its very large valuation. The company notes that it only has 32 engineers — making the ratio 1 engineer to every 14 million users. It processes 50 billion messages a day across seven platforms.
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