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Fitbit Reports Widening Loss, Investors Shrug

By Evan Niu, CFA - Nov 8, 2019 at 10:00AM

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The red ink will soon be Google's problem.

Fitbit (FIT) reported third-quarter earnings this week, which saw revenue decline and net losses widen substantially. Due to the pending acquisition by Alphabet (GOOG -1.29%) (GOOGL -1.34%) subsidiary Google, the market barely flinched. Those losses will soon be Google's problem to contend with.

Here are the details for what could be Fitbit's last earnings release as an independent company before it gets swallowed by the search giant.

Numerous Versa devices

Image source: Fitbit.

Deteriorating financials

Revenue in the third quarter declined 12% to $347.2 million, as unit volumes were flat at 3.5 million and prices fell. Smartwatch revenue slumped, and those devices accounted for 58% of revenue during the quarter, while basic trackers saw sales drop; Fitbit notes that tracker revenue faced a tough comparison since the company launched the Charge 3 in the year-ago period.

The Fitbit Health Solutions segment, which includes corporate wellness programs and consumer-based subscription services, saw revenue increase 10% and has now generated $73 million year to date. That business is still small, but it has been a strategic focus in recent quarters and will inevitably play an important role in Google's digital health ambitions.

"The continued success of the Fitbit brand is built on the trust of our users, and our commitment to strong user privacy and security will not change," CEO James Park said in a statement. "I'm excited about the combination of Fitbit and Google and look forward to closing the transaction and further advancing our vision and mission, accelerating innovation in the category and ultimately helping more people around the world get healthier."

Fitbit's net loss jumped from $2 million a year ago to $51.9 million, or $0.20 per share, as reported under generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). On a non-GAAP basis, the wearable tech company swung from adjusted earnings per share of $0.04 a year ago to a loss of $0.10 per share.

Call canceled

Fitbit also declined to host a conference call with analysts due to the pending deal, which means investors won't get any commentary from management about how the new Versa 2 smartwatch is faring.

Fitbit's major smartwatch launches have been hit or miss and the company has been struggling to release consistently popular products, in part because it competes in a more price-sensitive segment of the market.

Google and Fitbit expect the deal to close in 2020, as the acquisition needs to be approved by Fitbit shareholders and regulators. Whether Fitbit has any more public earnings releases in the future will depend on the timing of that process.

Securing regulatory approval might not be that easy

The acquisition has attracted scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators in the U.S. and abroad, as large tech juggernauts have already been under the antitrust microscope while privacy concerns around user data run rampant. U.S. lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have criticized the deal, which they fear will only make Google more powerful and give it more data even as it is currently under antitrust investigation.

The European commissioner for competition, Margrethe Vestager, yesterday expressed discomfort regarding deals that revolve around user data. Following the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) last May, Europe now has far stronger protections for user data than the U.S., and Fitbit has amassed considerable user data through its digital health platform.

Speaking at Web Summit, a tech conference in Europe, Vestager would not comment on the Fitbit acquisition specifically but suggested the European Commission would heavily scrutinize data-driven deals. "In general, we have a concern if companies merge because of data," she said.

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