Japanese toy company Ikon is planning to buy online-only doll-making company Barbie and Winnie-the-Pooh, a source close to the transaction said.
The announcement comes as online shopping for toys continues to boom, with the U.S. expected to reach a record $1.9 trillion in sales in the year ending Sept. 30.
Ikon, a division of Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp., is expected to acquire Barbie and Pooh for about $4.5 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.
In January, the company acquired a toy-making business in China and announced it would expand operations in China.
The company has also recently been investing in an online marketplace that will allow children to purchase their own toys online.
The acquisition would add to Ikon’s growing reach.
Last year, the Tokyo-based company was valued at about $9.5 million.
Its acquisition of the Poopies is a sign that it is more than a toy company, said one person familiar with its plans.
Ikons top executives, who are expected to join the new board, have already met with Chinese officials to discuss the future of the company, the person said.
A source familiar with Barbie’s plans said the company is looking for partners who can help build the online-based business and expand its business in Asia.
The company also plans to open an online-owned online store and is exploring how to open a third, Japanese-language site in China, the source said.
The new doll-maker is a key step for Ikon to take on Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., the Chinese e-commerce giant.
The new online-licensed business is expected at least two years after its first online-branded business, which had a successful Chinese debut in late 2018.
Ikon was founded in 2012 and has sold more than 300 million dolls.
It currently operates in about 30 countries, including the United States, Europe, China, India and Japan.