Nokia has has entered negotiations to sell its Digital Health business to its original owner, Withings co-founder Éric Carreel. The move is part of the company's plan to exit the consumer market and "focus on becoming a business-to-business and licensing company," it said. The company paid $191 million for Withings back in 2016, but recently announced that it had written off $175 million in goodwill, and would do a strategic review of its wearable businesses.
Nokia originally bought Withings to take on Apple's HealthKit, in what seemed at the time like a lucrative consumer market that could crossover to the business-oriented health industry. Nokia's idea was to collect key health data like heartrate, blood pressure and weight from users and use it for its own medical business, WellCare.
Once it had purchased the French company, Nokia re-branded all the products, despite the fact that Withings did have some cachet in the digital health wearable business. Nokia effectively handed control of its health business to Withings. "We're paying for the company, but in reality it's Withings that's going to be running the entire digital health business at Nokia," Nokia President Ramzi Haidamus told Engadget at the time.
However, activity trackers and other health-related wearables have been tanking in the consumer market unless your company name is "Apple." Fitbit, for one, has recorded four consecutive losses, despite having sold some 70 million devices to date.
It's not clear if Nokia sought other buyers before it decided to enter negotiations with Carreel, but TechCrunch reports that Google's Nest and Samsung looked at the company before today's deal. A spokesperson for Carreel and Nokia told Engadget that the parties won't comment about the price or any other terms of the deal, for now.
Haidamus was Nokia's CEO when it purchased Withings, but he left the company just weeks after the deal concluded. "Given that progress, now is the right time for me to explore new opportunities to pursue my passion for building and transforming businesses," he said at the time.
No deal has been finalized, and the sale is subject to certain terms and conditions, but Nokia said it expects to conclude the proceedings in late Q2 of 2018. Nokia's Digital Health business consists of smartwatches, scales, and digital health devices, most of which (like the Activité) were originally developed by Withings.
Nokia said previously that up to 425 people might be laid off from its Digital Health business. Prior to Nokia's purchase, Withings employed around 200 people, mostly in France, but also in the US, the UK and Hong Kong.