Washington Post: Google will acquire Fitbit for $2.1 billion in direct challenge to Apple

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Fitbit on Friday announced it will be acquired by Google in a deal that values the smartwatch maker at roughly $2.1 billion.

The deal puts Alphabet, Google’s parent company, in a race against Apple when it comes to tracking fitness and health data. Fitbit’s stock had surged as much as 30 percent earlier this week on reports that Alphabet had put in an offer. The deal is expected to close in 2020.

Google will pay $7.35 a share for the fitness tracker, helping it advance its ambitions for wearable technology. The company does not make its own smartwatch.

Fitbit stock surged 16 percent after the announcement. Like comparable products manufactured by Garmin, Apple and Samsung, the Fitbit gives consumers immediate access to ever-more-specific slices of fitness data — from their daily step count to their heart rate to how well they sleep. Yet the data has also become a treasure trove for employers and insurance companies, complicating the relationships between workers and their bosses.

“Fitbit has been a true pioneer in the industry and has created terrific products, experiences and a vibrant community of users,” said Rick Osterloh, senior vice president of devices and services at Google. “We’re looking forward to working with the incredible talent at Fitbit, and bringing together the best hardware, software and AI, to build wearables to help even more people around the world.”

Even though the deal could grant Google a big boost in a market where it has long lagged, it could also raise regulatory headaches for the tech giant. The companies indicated in their securities filings they would probably need to obtain approval from antitrust watchdogs to consummate the merger — a process that arrives precisely as all of Silicon Valley is under the political microscope in Washington for being too big and powerful.

Google, in particular, is the subject of competition investigations by federal and state officials, which are focused in large part on its advertising business. As part of its merger terms, Google has agreed to pay $250 million to Fitbit if it can’t secure regulators’ blessings, a move that some analysts saw as a critical warning sign.

“This deal is going to get a bright spotlight from regulators in the Beltway, which speaks to such a high termination fee,” said Daniel Ives, managing director for equity research at Wedbush Securities. “Google knows politicians and regulators have the company in their sights with another battle now on the horizon in this Big Tech versus Beltway theme.”

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