The ongoing bidding war for Nokia mapping service, HERE

June 24, 2015

There’s a lot of hoopla surrounding the possible sale of HERE, Nokia’s digital mapping service. A bidding war has erupted between major players in the car manufacturing and technology sectors… and for very good reason.

All indicators point to the sale of HERE, which is widely thought to be the best mapping service currently available, being linked to the future of autonomous, or self-driving, cars. Scientists and motoring experts have indicated fully autonomous cars will be widely available in the next 5-10 years. But to do that, car manufacturers need the best possible maps. Acquisition of HERE is seen as essential for the impending rollout of self-driving cars.

Whichever company does acquire it – be it a traditional car manufacturer or a technology firm – could become the frontrunner in this exciting new sector. A number of different companies have already shown interest in acquiring the mapping company with the sale expected to go through for between $2-billion and $4-billion.

Nokia announced in April it had initiated a review of strategic options for HERE – including a potential divestment. At the same time it announced a proposed combination with Alcatel-Lucent. “The Board of Directors of Nokia believes this is the right moment to assess the position of HERE within the proposed new Nokia business. The strategic review of HERE is ongoing and it may or may not result in any transaction. Any further announcements about HERE will be made as appropriate.”

It was previously reported Nokia was in no rush to sell the maps company. Chief Executive Rajeev Suri said there had been “significant interest” but it appeared the company was holding out for higher offers. “Let’s give it more time,” Suri said in an interview with trade magazine European Communications. “We may not end up selling it if we don’t get the right value. It has to be a good competitive deal for Nokia and our shareholders.”

It does however appear three frontrunners have shown interest in the mapping service. Reuters reported the three interested groups include German carmakers, a consortium including Uber and Chinese search company Baidu, and a third group including China’s Tencent, which owns a large stake in South Africa’s own Naspers, and Navinfo. Uber is thought to be interested in HERE as it expands its focus from being an alternative to taxis to becoming a delivery service and creating robot cabs. The company has previously used maps created by Google and Apple but has sought to create its own.

HERE describes itself as “the leading location cloud” and says its mission is to “make maps for a better life”. It has created maps for 196 countries, public transport maps for more than 950 cities and indoor maps for 90,000 buildings in 11,000 locations. “We build high-definition (HD) maps and combine them with cloud technology to help you and your business navigate a complex world with personalised solutions. Anytime, everywhere, across a broad range of devices, operating systems and vehicles.”

*This article first appeared on MWEB.

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