(Bloomberg) — Babylon Healthcare has pulled back from China, where it had a partnership with Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s WeChat, after the company “couldn’t come up with a commercially viable model,” Chief Executive Officer Ali Parsa said.
“The Chinese government and the Chinese partners insist on them taking most of the shares of any partnerships,” Parsa said in an interview. “I don’t think the balance is right at the moment.”
A representative for Tencent confirmed that it no longer has a partnership with Babylon and declined to comment further. Tencent backs a competing service, WeDoctor, whose business spans insurance policies, medical supplies and online-appointment booking.
Babylon’s app lets users schedule a video chat with a doctor, check symptoms or book time with specialists, such as therapists. A $550 million cash infusion led by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund in 2019 valued the company at about $2 billion. It put Babylon in a position to grow when the coronavirus pandemic hit last year, offering access to doctors from the safety of patients’ living rooms when many offices were closed, as well as a way for people who suspected they had the virus to track their symptoms.
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Babylon said it will continue to expand in Asia, and has an agreement with Prudential Plc in the region offering its symptom checker and other products in markets including Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
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