Facebook is to buy mobile messaging firm WhatsApp in a deal worth $19 billion.
The purchase was confirmed in an announcement from Facebook, which stated that the deal would see $4 billion (£2.4 billion) in cash and roughly $12 billion (£7.21 billion) worth of shares exchanged for the company.
The agreement also provides for an additional $3 billion ($2 billion) in restricted stock units to be granted to WhatsApp’s founders and employees that will vest over four years subsequent to closing.
WhatsApp currently has over 450 million monthly users worldwide, with 70 per cent of people using the mobile messaging app daily and over a million new users registering every day.
“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,” said Facebook in a statement.
“The combination will help accelerate growth and user engagement across both companies.”
"WhatsApp is on a path to connect one billion people. The services that reach that milestone are all incredibly valuable," said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO.
"I’ve known Jan [Koum, WhatsApp co-founder and CEO] for a long time and I’m excited to partner with him and his team to make the world more open and connected."
Koum added: "WhatsApp’s extremely high user engagement and rapid growth are driven by the simple, powerful and instantaneous messaging capabilities we provide.”
“We’re excited and honoured to partner with Mark and Facebook as we continue to bring our product to more people around the world."
Several industry figures have weighed in on the deal – analyst CCS Insight calling the deal a "defensive play" by Facebook.
“This is a huge deal by any measure, partly driven by future opportunity for Facebook and a defensive play," commented Martin Garner, SVP of CCS Insight.
"Facebook is rightly conscious that it could be quickly displaced by the "next big thing", but an even greater concern is that “the next big thing” will be acquired by a competitor. Facebook is pursuing a strategy where it acquires companies and gives them the benefit of its expertise, resource, network and scale to continue to operate independently."
"However, this strategy has multiple challenges. Facebook will be under significant pressure to ensure that it maintains engagement levels for its multiple assets and can identify means of monetisation."
"Moreover, given the diversification that Facebook itself is witnessing, there will be areas of overlap. One example, is Facebook messenger and WhatsApp. This is inevitable and not necessarily a problem in the short term but likely to cause investor consternation if one service ends up cannibalising another, particularly if the casualty has a clearer business model."
"It strikes me that as consumers we have less choice now about which social platforms we share our data with than ever before," added StJohn Deakins, founder of digital identity monitoring service Citizenme.
"Now with Facebook buying WhatApp, this could see more and more private information becoming part of Facebook’s database. From a personal data standpoint, this is extremely worrying."
"Right now any social or messaging network that hits critical mass is likely to be purchased by one of the big California-based personal data hoarders. It’s not just the network that is being sold – it’s our data that really makes the purchase, as they combine it with all the other personal data they already hold about us. Their mission is to own a ‘360-degree picture of you’ – and it seems to be well on its way to a ‘mission complete’."