Everyone from Apple to Uber linked with sale of Nokia's Here unit

A number of tech and car-making's biggest names are in the frame over the sale of Nokia's mapping and navigation unit.

After Nokia confirmed last week that it was examining its options with regard to its Here mapping unit, several companies are now rumoured to be interested in acquiring it.

Nokia announced a "strategic review" of Here last week, alongside a $15.6bn merger with French networking company Alcatel-Lucent. The unit, which provides mapping and navigation services to consumers and businesses, is one of the three divisions that make up Nokia, following the sale of its devices unit to Microsoft last April.

According to Bloomberg, Nokia is hoping to raise around $3bn from the sale of Here. The mapping unit saw a €1.2bn loss during 2014, compared to a €154m loss the previous year, Nokia's results show. The division currently employs around 6,000 staff.

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Bloomberg also reported that Alibaba, Amazon, Apple, Baidu, and Facebook had been approached about acquiring the unit. Nokia already has mapping partnerships with some of the companies: it supplies the mapping software for Amazon's Kindle devices, including the Fire phone, and also provides Baidu's mobile and desktop maps outside of China.

Baidu and Facebook declined to comment on "rumour and speculation"; the other companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A separate report by German publication Manager Magazinalso cited Facebook as a potential buyer, along with three German car makers - Audi, BMW, and Daimler - who are thought to be considering a joint bid.

Automotive is one of Here's largest revenue streams, and became the unit's key focus at the end of last year. According to Nokia, four out of every five new vehicles sold in North America and Europe last year had an in-car navigation system powered by Here software.

Here has also increasingly moved to embrace autonomous driving, launching a $100m fund to research self-driving vehicles and teaming up with Daimler's luxury division, Mercedes Benz, to develop autonomous cars in Germany.

Daimler and Audi declined to comment; BMW did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Another automotive company which has been repeatedly named as a potential buyer for Here is taxi service Uber. Reports suggest it has even gone as far as conducting due diligence into the unit. Uber declined to comment.

Both Bloomberg and Manager Magazin report that private equity firms have also shown interest in the acquisition. Microsoft has also been mentioned in connection with a potential buyout.

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