Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg said WhatsApp, which his social-media company agreed to buy last week, was “worth more than $19 billion.”
The mobile-messaging startup was “a great fit for us,” Mr Zuckerberg said at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona yesterday.
“Already almost half-a-billion people love using WhatsApp for messaging and it’s the most engaging app we’ve ever seen exist on mobile by far.”
The cash-and-stock acquisition would be the biggest by Facebook, the world’s largest social network, and the most expensive for an Internet company in more than a decade.
The deal gives WhatsApp roughly the same valuation as Gap and more than half the market value of microblogging service Twitter.
Mr Zuckerberg, who also bought photo-sharing service Instagram for about $700 million in 2012, has been adding applications such as messaging and news to court smartphone and tablet users.
The WhatsApp deal will help Facebook play a more important role in getting more people connected, Mr Zuckerberg said.
California-based WhatsApp lets users send messages through its service on mobile devices based on different operating systems including Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android, Microsoft’s Windows phone and BlackBerry’s software.
Unlike traditional text messages, which consumers pay for through their mobile-phone plans, WhatsApp is free for the first year, and costs 99 cents a year after that.
Mr Zuckerberg also said he’s seeking three to five phone companies as partners in an effort to connect billions of people to the Internet that don’t yet have access. Carriers joining the initiative would roll out networks and provide data service for free to people who can’t afford it, he said.