Uber is reportedly teaming up with Chinese web giant Baidu to bid for Nokia's Here mapping business.
Nokia said it was open to selling off Here when it announced its proposed takeover of networking rival Alcatel-Lucent earlier this year. So far, the unit is believed to have drawn interest from a number of companies that could use one of the only real rivals to Google Maps, at a time when mapping services are becoming more critical for both smartphones and connected vehicles.
The joint bid by Baidu and Uber is being backed by private equity firm Apax Partners, according to a Bloomberg report on Tuesday. Baidu last year took a stake in Uber, after which the ride-hailing service started using Baidu's mapping technology in China.
The Chinese search company is also thought to be vying for a minority stake in Here as part of a separate consortium bidding on the unit, led by Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. The German vehicle makers see Here as vital to their future in self-driving cars. Nokia's Here has a fleet of around 200 vehicles capturing 3D imagery that could be useful for autonomous vehicles - an area which Uber is also thought to be moving into.
Three people familiar with the negotiations told Bloomberg that bids for Here may reach $4bn; Uber has reportedly already offered $3bn for the company.
What about Redmond?
Microsoft didn't acquire Here when it bought Nokia's handset business last year, but the Redmond company isn't completely out of the running for the mapping division yet. According to Bloomberg, Microsoft has offered to buy a minority stake in Here.
Three US private equity firms are also bidding on the mapping business, the report said - Hellman & Friedman, Silver Lake Management, and Thoma Bravo - as is a rival consortium which includes China's Tencent Holdings, NavInfo, and Swedish private equity firm EQT Partners.
The next round of bids is expected to take place in two weeks from now, Bloomberg reported.
The Here maps brand evolved out of Nokia's 2008 acquisition of Navteq for around $8bn. Nokia rebranded its mapping business as Here in 2012 amid the company's transition to Windows Phone under then-CEO Stephen Elop, and ahead of Microsoft's planned acquisition of Nokia's devices and services unit. Without a handset business, mapping became less critical for Nokia's remaining core business in networks.
According to Nokia, 13 million cars shipped with Here maps installed last year, giving it around an 80 percent share of the vehicle mapping market. Customers include BMW, Daimler, Toyota, Ford, Mazda, and Honda. It also counts tech players Yahoo, Amazon, and Microsoft as customers.
Apple said this week that it had acquired precision GPS mapping company Coherent Navigation, following a string of other mapping and location related acquisitions the company has made in the past five years.
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