BlackBerry buys minority stake in healthcare IT firm

Tue Apr 15, 2014 8:00am EDT
 
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By Euan Rocha

TORONTO, April 15 (Reuters) - BlackBerry Ltd said on Tuesday it bought a minority stake in privately held healthcare IT firm NantHealth, a move that offers a glimpse into the type of niche markets the smartphone maker is targeting as it attempts to engineer a turnaround.

Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry, a pioneer in the smartphone industry, has fallen on hard times as its market share has waned in recent years. As the company attempts to stem losses and remain relevant it is now focused on expanding its services segment that caters to the needs of large clients like banks, law firms and government agencies, among others.

BlackBerry's Chief Executive John Chen, who took the reins at the company less than six months ago, sees healthcare as one of the sectors in which the company has an advantage, due to a heightened focus on patient privacy and BlackBerry's vast array of networks that can manage and secure data on mobile devices.

"BlackBerry's capabilities align closely with NantHealth's," said Chen in a statement on Tuesday. "This investment represents the type of forward-looking opportunities that are vital to our future."

The financial terms of the deal itself were not disclosed, but NantHealth said it does not seek any further funding from BlackBerry beyond its current investment.

The two companies are now working together to develop a new smartphone tailored to the needs of the healthcare sector. The device is likely to get launched late in 2014 or early in 2015, said Jim Mackey, BlackBerry's head of corporate development and strategic planning, in an interview.

"We do plan to make the device available for all, but it will be optimized for viewing 3D images and CT scans," said Mackey, adding that the device will also be usable as a regular smartphone, allowing users to view movies, play games or access consumer applications.

He said the deal with NantHealth exemplifies BlackBerry's focus on the regulated industries such as healthcare.   Continued...