Israeli Firm Viber in Talks for $300m Sale to Chinese Buyer

Mobile app allows users to make phone calls and send text messages for free.

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Viber, the Israeli mobile application that allows users to make phone calls and send text messages for free, is in talks with a potential Chinese buyer for a deal that could be worth around $300 million.

The news comes some six months after Viber approached investment banking firm Goldman Sachs to help it find a buyer. Viber has a large user base in Southeast Asia, although the negotiations are said to be proceeding at a slow pace with the Chinese firm.

Viber is a private firm established in 2011 by entrepreneur and businessman Talmon Marco, with partners from the Israeli company iMesh, one of Israel's largest media and file-sharing companies. It is registered in Cyprus, but holds an R&D center in Israel.

Viber has not received any funding from venture capital firms for its popular Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), but recently launched new services to diversify its sources of income. Among those is Viber Out, which allows users to make international calls to non-Viber users at low rates.

If acquired, Viber will join other VoIP firms that operated in Israel but were sold after changes swept through the global cellular market.

Last September, Genband acquired Israeli firm Fring for an undisclosed price estimated to be $30-$40 million, while in 2009 Telecom giant Telefonica bought Jajah for more than $200 million.

Viber has about 200 million registered users in 193 countries. It launched an instant messaging app for personal computers that allows users to make outgoing mobile calls to other Viber users and to nonregistered mobiles, making it a rival to Skype.

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