Alphabet’s Verily Preps for China Entry With Temasek Funds

  • Funds will support the biotech firm’s entrance into Asia
  • Investment is first outside investor for Google’s Other Bets

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

Temasek Holdings Pte Ltd, a state-owned firm, is investing $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-U.S. 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 percent 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 healthcare 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 specialized spoons for Parkinson’s disease patients and recently to a sterile mosquito breeding effort to combat the Zika virus.

The company primarily makes money through licensing. It has cut deals with several traditional pharmaceutical companies such as Novartis AG, 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 Plc.

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 $197 million in revenue during the third quarter.

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

Temasek has a net portfolio value of $180 billion and recently said it has increased its focus on North American technology ventures. It established a San Francisco office in late 2016.

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