The battle for digital mapping starts

Tele Atlas is not a particularly large company working in a somewhat specialist field, but its upcoming sale has prompted a bidding war. A leader in the in-car navigation field, TomTom, has come in with a bid to buy the company believed to be around $2.

Tele Atlas is not a particularly large company working in a somewhat specialist field, but its upcoming sale has prompted a bidding war. A leader in the in-car navigation field, TomTom, has come in with a bid to buy the company believed to be around $2.6bn. Now another navigation systems company, Garmin, has put in a bid which could be around $3.3bn. Tele Atlas’s last set of figures showed turnover of about €315m. What is the big attraction that sees such a high valuation? Well, if there are any crown jewels at stake here it is those in the hands of Tele Atlas and they are the maps. The company is one of the leaders in digital mapping. It has been involved in digital mapping for the past 20 years and in that time has built considerable intellectual property in the maps themselves which it makes a specialty of chronicling accurately and rendering into equally accurate digital pictures. How good is it? You can tell that by the companies that use it. Customers for its technology include our own Ordinance Survey and the leaders in French digital mapping, Via Michelin. Not bad for a small company based in Gent, in the Flemish part of Belgium. Tele Atlas was one of the companies I visited on Tuesday, as part of a tour of Flanders courtesy of Flanders Investment and Trade, the Government sponsored body seeking to increase investment in this corner of Belgium. Tele Atlas is a particularly buoyant company. The boss of the company, CEO, Alan De Taeye, is not unnaturally a buoyant man at the moment, seeking to weigh up the relevant merits of two very enticing offers. But he is keeping tight-lipped about which way he is leaning.

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