Facebook said Wednesday it was buying the fast-growing mobile messaging service WhatsApp for more than $19 billion in cash and stock, expanding the global footprint of the social networking giant.
The purchase includes $12 billion in Facebook shares and $4 billion 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.
The deal bolsters the worldâ€™s biggest social network by adding the 450 million users of WhatsApp, which will be operated independently with its own board.
It is Facebookâ€™s biggest acquisition and comes less than two years after Mark Zuckerbergâ€™s firm raised $16 billion in the richest tech sector public stock offering.
â€œThe acquisition supports Facebook and WhatsAppâ€™s shared mission to bring more connectivity and utility to the world by delivering core Internet services efficiently and affordably,â€ Facebook said in a statement.
Facebook reportedly sought to acquire another hot messaging firm, Snapchat, for $3 billion last year.
â€œWhatsApp is on a path to connect one billion people. The services that reach that milestone are all incredibly valuable,â€ said Zuckerberg, Facebookâ€™ founder and chief executive.
â€œIâ€™ve known (WhatsApp founder) Jan (Koum) for a long time, and Iâ€™m excited to partner with him and his team to make the world more open and connected.â€
WhatsApp is a cross-platform mobile app that allows users to exchange messages without having to pay telecom charges.
â€œAlmost five years ago we started WhatsApp with a simple mission: building a cool product used globally by everybody. Nothing else mattered to us,â€ Koum said in a blog post.
â€œToday we are announcing a partnership with Facebook that will allow us to continue on that simple mission.
â€œDoing 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 thatâ€™s as fast, affordable and personal as possible.â€