Nokia has confirmed that it’s selling its digital health unit to Withings cofounder Éric Carreel as part of its shift away from the consumer technology realm. Terms of the proposed deal were not disclosed.
Carreel and cofounder Cedric Hutchings launched Withings out of France in 2008, and the company emerged as one of the most notable brands in the wearables space — selling items such as watches, fitness bands, and sleep-trackers, as well as connected thermometers and scales.
Nokia came a-callin’ in 2016, snapping up Withings in a $192 million deal and then killing the Withings brand a year later and replacing it with Nokia’s Digital Health unit. In February, Nokia announced that its attempt to reinvent itself as a devices company– after selling its mobile phone unit to Microsoft — was likely coming to an end, suggesting plans to sell or close its digital health unit.
Nokia said at the time:
The strategic review of the Digital Health business may or may not result in any transaction or other changes. Any further announcements about the Digital Health business will be made if and when appropriate.
Fast-forward three months, and we now have a slightly clearer picture of what will become of the unit formerly known as Withings, though we don’t really know what Carreel has planned for his re-acquired business. It also appears that Nokia may have struggled to garner interest, unless Carreel put in an offer that trumped the other suitors.
All of this makes sense, though. Nokia made just €16 million ($20 million) from its digital health business in Q1 2018, compared to €4.9 billion ($5.9 billion) in net sales clocked by the entire Nokia business. That may be partly because Nokia had already given up on the business, but it’s also indicative of where Nokia’s future intentions lie. The hardware game is a competitive and expensive foray, and Nokia has already been doubling down on its licensing and business-to-business operations, which include creating the infrastructure required to power 5G.
This move doesn’t mean that the Nokia brand will vanish from consumer devices, of course. The Finnish tech company has a licensing deal in place with HMD Global, which continues to ship feature phones and smartphones with the famous Nokia badge emblazoned on it — demonstrating the enduring power of brand recognition.