Microsoft to buy speech tech firm Nuance for $19.7bn in healthcare bet
April 12 2021 09:12 PM
Microsoft’s French headquarters in Paris. The software giant is buying speech technology company Nuance Communications in an all-cash deal valued at $19.7bn, including debt, making a massive bet on healthcare artificial intelligence.

Bloomberg/New York

Microsoft Corp is buying speech technology company Nuance Communications Inc in an all-cash deal valued at $19.7bn, including debt, making a massive bet on healthcare artificial intelligence.
The software giant is offering to purchase Nuance at $56 a share, a 23% premium to Friday’s close, according to a statement on Monday, which confirmed an earlier Bloomberg report. The deal marks Microsoft’s largest acquisition since LinkedIn Corp. The deal will “minimally” decrease earnings in the year that begins July 1 and start to add to profit the following year, Microsoft said.
Microsoft is tapping the company tied to the Siri voice technology to develop solutions that free doctors from note-taking and better predict a patient’s needs. It has been working with Nuance for two years on AI software that helps clinicians capture patient discussions and integrate them into electronic health records, and combining the speech technology company’s products into its Teams chat app for tele-health appointments.
The “Nuance deal would be a trophy for Redmond,” Wedbush analyst Dan Ives, referring to Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft, said before the deal was officially announced. “Nuance is in the midst of an unprecedented strategic turnaround the last few years under the leadership of CEO Mark Benjamin and we believe the company represents a unique asset on the healthcare front for Microsoft.”
Under Benjamin, Nuance has narrowed its focus and separated peripheral businesses, such as Cerence Inc, the automotive AI unit that was spun off two years ago. It also sold its imaging division to Thoma Bravo’s Kofax for $400mn, and zoomed in instead on partnerships with healthcare providers and the biggest electronic medical records companies.
Microsoft has been trying to make inroads into the healthcare sector, selling more cloud software to hospitals and doctors. As AI software gets better at parsing language and predicting medical needs, Nuance and Microsoft may be able to develop technology that searches for certain words in health records to make better suggestions to doctors for patient care.
As of Friday, Nuance’s shares have climbed 3.4% this year, giving the company that laid the groundwork for the technology used in Apple Inc’s Siri a market value of almost $13bn. The gain still trailed the 9.9% jump in the S&P 500 Index, while Microsoft added 15%. Microsoft shares were little changed in premarket trading Monday and Nuance rose 23%.
“This can really help Microsoft accelerate the digitisation of the healthcare industry, which has lagged other sectors such as retail and banking,” said Anurag Rana, a Bloomberg Intelligence senior analyst, said before the announcement. “The biggest near-term benefit that I can see is in the area of telehealth, where Nuance transcription product is currently being used with Microsoft Teams.”
Nuance, whose products include Dragon speech-recognition software, had net income of $91mn on revenue of $1.48bn for its fiscal year ending September 30, after losing $217mn the previous year.
Microsoft has also been increasingly focused on healthcare. In May, the software maker unveiled a package of industry-specific cloud software, and has also hired executives with medical backgrounds and researching machine learning and AI tools for areas including clinical trials.
Coincidentally, one of Microsoft’s Boston area offices is located right next to Nuance’s headquarters.
With a market value of $1.93tn, the most in the world after Apple, Microsoft remains active on the deals front.
Last month, Bloomberg News reported that the software giant was in talks to acquire Discord Inc, a video-game chat community, for more than $10bn. It also bought video-game maker Zenimax Media Inc. for $7.5bn in cash in a deal that closed this year.
The Nuance purchase would rank as Microsoft’s second-largest acquisition, behind the 2016 LinkedIn purchase at an equity value of more than $26bn, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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