Samsung Electronics is interested in acquiring Nokia's digital health division that's been under a corporate review due to suspect performance for over a month now, French outlet Le Monde reports, citing sources familiar with the matter. The development comes shortly after several other local insiders claimed the unit that largely consists of former French tech company Withings acquired by Nokia in 2016 may also be purchased by Nest, Google's smart home subsidiary. Besides Nest and Samsung, at least two other firms have expressed some formal degree of interest in acquiring the struggling business, as per the same report. Sources remain adamant that the Finnish tech giant prefers selling its wearable arm to a European entity as it perceives digital health applications to be closely related to artificial intelligence and related solutions, a segment that's currently giving trouble to the tech sector on the Old Continent which is struggling to keep up with its colleagues from Asia and North America.
Nokia acquired Withings for €170 million ($208.5 million) in 2016 but is extremely unlikely to find a buyer willing to pay that much for the unit now, especially if it remains adamant to not entertain bids from outside of the European Union, the same report indicates. For Nest, a theoretical purchase of Nokia Health would signal a major diversification effort, whereas Samsung is already present in the digital health segment, though it's currently unclear whether it's interested in the unit because it wants to boost its existing wearables such as the Gear S and Gear Fit lineups, create entirely new products and services, or pursue both ideas simultaneously.
Likewise, the latest report doesn't clarify whether Nokia already communicated its supposed unwillingness to sell the digital health unit to a non-European entity to its foreign suitors. With 5G being yet to start truly setting its global roots and Nokia already committing significant resources to the next-generation wireless technology while still waiting for returns on those investments, the company is keen on cutting costs in order to avoid taking significant debt in the near term, as per recent reports, and as indicated by the firm's recent financial disclosures. The tech giant is now understood to be drafting a license-based strategy that would see it remain in the digital health segment in name only, much like it currently has a presence in the smartphone market even though it's HMD Global that largely designs, markets, and sells all new Nokia-branded Android handsets.