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One of last year's biggest losers is kicking off 2017 as one of its biggest winners. Shares of Fitbit (NYSE: FIT) surrendered 75% of their value in 2016, but they soared 9% to be one of the biggest gainers during the first week of 2017.
Last week's rebound began when Fitbit announced integration in a potentially lucrative wellness program that's the handiwork of UnitedHealthcare (NYSE: UNH) and Qualcomm(NASDAQ: QCOM). UnitedHealthcare Motion -- a platform of UnitedHealthcare and Qualcomm Life -- will provide employees with activity trackers at no charge, allowing them to earn as much as $1,500 a year if they meet activity goals.
UnitedHealthcare and Qualcomm are raising the bar. Fitbit has managed to talk several companies into springing for fitness trackers in the past, subsidizing the cost for the sake of healthier employees. UnitedHealthcare Motion's platform, which provides financial incentives to remain active, could be the new standard in corporate wellness programs. Companies get to save money on health coverage with more active employees, and the hires now have a financial incentive if the physical benefits aren't enough.
Jumping into the booth
Fitbit was already having a good week of trading on the heels of the UnitedHealthcare Motion integration, and there was probably a fair share of buying after possible tax-loss selling at the end of last year. However, the positive developments came once the annual Consumer Electronics Show conference kicked off, with Fitbit making a couple of announcements as it tried to draw attention to its expo booth.
It announced partnerships with personalized nutrition solution Habit, indoor-bike maker Peloton, and online virtual-reality game developer VirZOOM, with all three upstarts joining the Works With Fitbit program.
A day later, Fitbit announced an updated Fitstar Personal Trainer app, enhancing the ability to generate tailored workouts based on Fitstar and Fitbit activities. There are also some app features that in the coming weeks will enhance the Blaze smartwatch it introduced last year.
Fitbit is coming off a challenging 2016. Revenue growth has decelerated, and margins are contracting. However, it did seem to close an otherwise dreadful year on a promising note, when the Fitbit app rose to the top of the iOS App Store download chart just after Christmas, suggesting that Fitbit devices were popular holiday gifts.
Last week's developments may not pay off right away. The partnership integrations and app updates may take time to move the needle. However, when a stock sheds three-quarters of its value in a single year, a series of positive developments matter. Fitbit has a long way to go to win back last year's share price losses, but it's off to a strong start.
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