Nokia Here Bidding War, More Subtle Than it Appears

According to an article in the New York Times last week Uber would have made a $3 Billion bid on HERE, the digital map division of Nokia.

This follows on the heels of the Wall Street Journal announcing a competing bidding consortium formed by Audi, BMW, Daimler and Baidu.

Until this point none of the companies involved have confirmed these news.

Uber & deCarta

What is interesting to point out is that two elements seem illogical in these announcements.

The first one is that Uber already bought a LBS infrastructure company, deCarta, two months ago (read here). deCarta is offering a software platform that provides map visualization, geocoding, local search and navigation. If Uber had in mind of buying HERE they would not have bought deCarta since Here has the same capabilities on top of its map data.

Volkswagen, Audi & TomTom

The second illogical element is that Audi – and the Volkswagen group at large – have been signing multiple agreements with TomTom – instead of Here – in the last few months.

Volkswagen of America has inked a deal with TomTom (read here) for maps which was announced in January 2015; and Volkswagen and Audi will be using TomTom traffic information in Europe (read here) according to a joint announcement made in February.

TomTom and the Volkswagen group have also signed a research and development agreement about highly automated cars (read here) in October 2014. As a first element of this agreement the automated drive of an Audi car between San Francisco and Las Vegas last January at the time of CES was performed using a high accuracy map from TomTom.

Therefore there not would be much logic for Volkswagen in investing in Here while running a major R&D program with TomTom on what appears to be the future of the car industry.

Poker game

The complexity of this bidding war is that, like in a poker game, there are false contenders, companies bidding – or leaking to the press the fact they could bid even if they are not – not to win but to put pressure either on their competitors or on their map licensing partner.

To fully understand it let’s get back in time for a second and have a look at the first wave of digital map provider acquisition in 2007-2008.

The first offer by TomTom for Tele Atlas was €2 billion, but then Garmin offered €2.3 billion for the Belgium map company. This higher bid was followed by a counter-offer from TomTom at €2.9 billion valuation.

But Garmin was clearly not interested in Tele Atlas. They pursued other goals in bidding for the European map company. The first reason was to make life a bit more difficult for TomTom, their top competitor at the time. As a result TomTom overpaid Tele Atlas by 900 million due to the Garmin bid, this strained their investment capacity for many years, creating a clear advantage to Garmin.


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