A recent major investment in fitness band maker Jawbone may not have technically been an investment.
What was originally billed as a $300 million cash infusion from BlackRock (BLK), the world’s largest asset manager, may actually have been a loan, according to a Bloomberg report that cites anonymous sources as well as a recent filing.
Jawbone makes the popular Up fitness bands as well as Jambox speakers, but the 16-year-old company has struggled to take off in the growing wearable technology market. A Fortune feature story earlier this year looked at some of the issues that have plagued the company, which had raised more than $400 million prior to BlackRock’s involvement.
Now, Bloomberg calls BlackRock’s cash “something of a bailout for Jawbone,” a company that has yet to show consistent profitability. Bloomberg adds:
“BlackRock’s decision to use debt rather than equity is one way that late-stage investors can protect themselves when backing private, venture-supported companies. Equity investors in private companies rarely get the same financial transparency or shareholder rights that they do with publicly traded companies.”
Flextronics, an electronics components manufacturer, sued Jawbone last year in a $21 million breach of contract lawsuit over an alleged unpaid bill. That suit was quickly settled.
Earlier this year, rumors surfaced that Google (GOOG) might make a strategic investment in Jawbone, but the search giant has yet to make such a move.