Next month, Japanese billionaire Hiroshi Mikitani will take the stage at the Rakuten Optimism conference, his e-commerce firm’s biggest event of the year.
Optimism isn’t a word one associates with Rakuten Group these days. The company appears in crisis mode, having lost money in 15 of the last 16 quarters. Shares trade at levels not seen since the aftermath of the financial crisis, when Japan’s stock market was in the doldrums.
Once the great hope for a Japanese online commerce and tech giant to match the likes of Amazon.com or Alibaba Group Holding, Rakuten has been hamstrung for more than half a decade now with a problem entirely of its own making: the decision in 2017 to enter Japan’s already crowded mobile-carrier market.