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Asda parent Walmart scoops up social networking firm

Kosmix purchase aimed at expanding online and mobile commerce

Walmart, the owner of UK supermarket chain Asda, has acquired a social networking firm in a major bid to grow its online and mobile shopping businesses.

The world's largest retailer said it was acquiring Kosmix, a US-based company that has developed a platform to aggregate and organise data from social networking sites. The value of the deal has not been disclosed, but commentators are speculating that it was in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Kosmix platform aims to connect people to products and real time data "that matters to them". It was developed by the founders of Junglee, which was acquired by Amazon in 1998, in the early days of online shopping.

The platform "captures the connections between people, places, topics, products and events as expressed through social media - be it a feed, a tweet or a post", according to co-founder Anand Rajaraman.

Kosmix's system is also the backbone of TweetBeat, a real-time social media filter for live events; Kosmix.com, a site for discovering social content by topic; and RightHealth, a large health information portal.

Following the acquisition, the retail chain will incorporate Kosmix into its new WalmartLabs division, which is focused on online and mobile innovation. Walmart has online businesses in nine of its 15 countries of operation, including the UK.

Eduardo Castro-Wright, vice chairman at Walmart, said: "We are expanding our capabilities in today's rapidly growing social commerce environment. Social networking and mobile applications are increasingly becoming a part of our customers' day-to-day lives globally, influencing how they think about shopping, both online and in retail stores."

Photo: Dominic Alves

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