Alphabet’s Verily preps for China entry with Singapore’s Temasek

Alphabet and Temasek partnership may signal a move by Verily into China

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 January, 2017, 12:59am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 January, 2017, 9:13am

Alphabet’s medical arm Verily Life Sciences is getting a major influx of cash from a Singapore investment company, boosting the odds of taking their futuristic approach to health care into Asian markets.

Temasek Holdings Pte Ltd, a state-owned firm with US$415.8 billion in assets, is investing US$800 million in Verily, according to a statement from the company Thursday. In exchange, Temasek will get a minority stake in Verily and a seat on its operating board.

“With a substantial network and insights into the economies in Asia, Temasek will provide valuable guidance as we look to ex-US markets with our development partners,” Verily Chief Executive Officer Andrew Conrad, said in the statement.

Temasek’s investment supports the move by Alphabet CEO Larry Page to run each of his subsidiaries as independent companies. The units, which work in disparate industries, vary in their autonomy from Google’s infrastructure and corporate support. To date, Verily has been funded by Google’s massive advertising revenue.

The agreement could also signal Verily’s plans to expand into China. About 23 per cent of Temasek’s portfolio is in China, the largest by underlying asset exposure after Singapore, according to the company. Google pulled most of its services from China in 2010, citing political reasons. But Alphabet has not said whether this ban applies to the other companies under its umbrella.

Verily aims to develop software and hardware for the health care field. The group debuted Google’s experimental research lab with a smart contact lens that measures glucose. It has since expanded to a myriad of medical projects, ranging from specialised spoons for Parkinson’s disease patients and recently to a sterile mosquito breeding effort to combat the Zika virus.

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The company primarily makes money through licensing. It has cut deals with several traditional pharmaceutical companies such as Novartis, which is developing the contact lens, and Biogen Inc. Verily has also funded a robotic surgery company with Johnson & Johnson and started a bio-electronics joint venture with GlaxoSmithKline.

Verily resides in the tech giant’s so-called Other Bets bucket, the corporate units apart from Google. Verily is one of three in the group that brings in revenue, the company has said. Smart-home device maker Nest and high-speed internet service Google Fiber are the other two. Altogether, the Other Bets unit generated US$197 million in revenue during the third quarter.

In 2015, Alphabet put US$869 million in capital spending into the Other Bet companies.