Nokia plans to sell digital health division back to Withings cofounder

By Laura Lovett
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Almost exactly two years after Nokia acquired French health technology company Withings, it has announced that it is in negations to sell its digital health division back to Withings cofounder Éric Carreel. The deal is expected to close in late Q2.

 
"Nokia and Éric Carreel recognize that as an original Co-Founder of Withings, he is best positioned to carry the company forward into its next phase," a Nokia spokesperson wrote to MobiHealthNews. "Through this move, we would enable our [digital health] employees to continue supporting the DH product line with the financial backing and foundational knowledge of Withings that’s needed to be successful."

The tech giant said that the sale of the division is part of “Nokia’s honed focus on becoming a business-to-business and licensing company.” The sale will include Nokia’s digital health portfolio of products including hybrid smart watches, scales, and digital health devices to consumers and enterprise partners. 

This announcement comes after rumors circulated earlier this month that the Finnish company was looking to sell the digital health division. Among those reportedly interested in buying was Nest, the Alphabet subsidiary that focuses on smart home devices, according to French news paper Les Echos.

It’s no secret Nokia’s digital health division has struggled since it acquired Withings in 2016 for $191 million. In February the company announced that it would be conducting a strategic review of its digital health division as well as an update to the company-wide cost savings plans, which included reductions. 

Shortly after strategic review was announced a leaked memo shed light on the state of the division. 

“[R]ather than only falling in love with our technology, we must be honest with ourselves,” Kathrin Buvac, Nokia’s chief strategy officer, wrote in the memo. “In its entirety, our Digital Health business has struggled to scale and meet its growth expectations. Currently, we don’t see a path for it to become a meaningful part of a company as large as Nokia. Thus, we are conducting a strategic review to determine the best next steps for the business.”

Nokia entered the digital health space after selling off its Device and Service Business to Microsoft for $7 billion. 

This deal left the company to reinvent itself — eventually turning to the health space. 

It purchased Withings in what it called a “reverse takeover,” putting former Withings' CEO Cedric Hutchings in charge of Nokia’s digital health. Since then, Hutchings moved into an advisory position. Rob Le Bras-Brown is was head of digital health and Gregory Lee, president of Nokia Technologies, was handling the day-to-day operations of the digital health business, according to a Nokia spokesperson.  

This latest announcement means the company will now be coming back to its founder and, when considering the focus of previous sales rumors, back to France. 

During the sales rumors earlier this month Wearable reported that the French government was pushing for Nokia to sell to a French company, and noted that the government had recently revealed a plan to boost its tech and artificial intelligence efforts. However, Les Echos wrote that Nokia’s relationship with the French government has been dicey since the Finnish company announced it would be cutting close to 600 jobs.

The formerly Issy-les-Moulineaux-based Withings was started in 2008 and became popular for its smartphone-connected weight scales, blood pressure cuffs, activity trackers, and thermometers.

MobiHealthNews has reached out to Careel for a comment and will update if we learn more.