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Nokia completes $190M acquisition of Withings health gadget maker

TechCrunch TechCrunch 1/06/2016 Natasha Lomas

Back in April Nokia announced it was buying health and fitness focused gadget maker Withings for €170 million (~$190M). At the time it was expecting the acquisition to close in Q3 but it has now confirmed the close of the transaction ahead of schedule.

Following the acquisition, Withings co-founder and CEO Cedric Hutchings has been made head of a new Digital Health business unit at Nokia, reporting to Ramzi Haidamus, president of Nokia Technologies — the company’s R&D and IP licensing division.

Discussing the deal, Nokia flags up existing expertise in “preventive health and patient care” in its Nokia Technologies division, which it said it intends to build on with the acquisition of Withings’ consumer health gadget and digital health platform business.

Withings makes of range of mostly fitness focused gadgets, such as its Go activity tracker, which has an e-ink screen and tracks steps, sleep, running and swimming and boasts an eight-month battery life, and its Activité range of fitness tracking watches (which sync with a companion app); along with more specialist health tech gadgetry — such as a wireless blood pressure monitor, a wi-fi connected thermometer and a connected baby scales.

In a statement on the close of the acquisition Haidamus dubbed the health space a “huge opportunity”. While Nokia’s primary business remains networking and backhaul technology, digital health has been one of the stated areas of focus for its Nokia Technologies division, along with digital media and brand and patent licensing.

“This is the beginning of an exciting new chapter in the history of Nokia Technologies as we extend our product portfolio to include a series of powerful digital health technologies,” added Haidamus.

The Withings acquisition is not the only consumer gadget focused move by Nokia this year. Last month it revealed its route back into the mobile devices market — via an exclusive brand licensing arrangement with a newly established Finnish company that intends to produce a range of Nokia-branded smartphone and tablets.

While Nokia is not getting back into fully fledged smartphone manufacturing itself, which was of course the engine of its business for more than a decade, it’s interesting the company thinks it’s worth its while dabbling in the low margins IoT business. But that’s perhaps more a measure of the patent licensing potential it sees for consumer health tech — and the additional patents it acquires with Withings — given the “huge opportunity” presented by the health market.

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