Mark Zuckerberg: The $19bn bargain

Mark Zuckerberg has claimed that WhatsApp, the free text messaging app he bought last week, is worth significantly more than the $19bn he paid for it and will help spread internet access to billions more people.

The Facebook chief executive said on Monday that even as an independent company without the benefit of Facebook’s marketing clout, WhatsApp would be “quite a good bet” to be a major communications company.

He said: “I could be wrong. It could be the one service that reaches 1bn [users] and doesn’t become valuable.”

Mr Zuckerberg suggested SnapChat, another popular free smartphone app that was reportedly the target of a $3bn takeover bid from Facebook last year, was no longer a priority in the wake of the massive WhatsApp deal, reports The Telegraph. Asked if he would make another approach, he said Facebook was “probably done for a while” in the acquisitions market.

The 29-year-old was speaking in Barcelona to an audience of mobile industry executives, many of whom fear that WhatsApp and similar services that use the internet to offer free versions of traditional telecoms services, pose a serious threat to their businesses. Yet he urged them to give away access to some of the most popular online services customers in poor countries world to help drive growth.

Earlier, Jan Koum, the co-founder of WhatsApp, announced at the same conference that within months the app will offer free voice calls to its 465m monthly active users, increasing its threat to mobile operators.

But Mr Zuckerberg appealed to mobile operators to form partnerships with Facebook to help subscribers in the developing world use such services for free, arguing such deals will create an “on ramp” to the internet for billions of people.

“Basic” free internet services such as Facebook and WhatsApp would demonstrate the value of the internet to the poor and ultimately create larger markets for mobile operators, he said.

Mr Zuckerberg said: “It shows people why its rational and good to spend the limited money they have on the internet.”