Audi is open to carmakers joining bid for Nokia’s HERE

Christoph Rauwald
Bloomberg News

Audi is open to other carmakers joining the consortium bidding for Nokia Oyj’s HERE maps business, the auto manufacturer’s research and development chief Ulrich Hackenberg said.

“It’s important to ensure free availability of the data,” Hackenberg said on the sidelines of the Volkswagen AG luxury-car unit’s shareholder meeting in Neckarsulm, Germany. “Data management will play an important role in the future,” and geographic data is particularly interesting for carmakers, he said.

Audi is working with BMW AG and Daimler AG on an approach for the mapping business, people familiar with the matter have said. The German companies’ position as customers of HERE, whose maps underpin car navigation systems, may give them an advantage as the bidding war intensifies because they could threaten to switch to another provider if they don’t succeed.

Daimler spokesman Hendrik Sackmann declined to comment, as did Nokia spokesman Brett Young. A spokesman for BMW wasn’t immediately able to comment.

HERE has drawn interest from a range of companies and buyout firms, according to people with knowledge of the matter. Uber Technologies Inc. is teaming up with Baidu Inc. and Apax Partners to pursue the unit, which may fetch as much as $4 billion, according to the people. Another group comprising China’s Tencent Holdings Ltd., NavInfo Co. and Swedish buyout firm EQT Partners AB is also said to be bidding.

It’s “too early to tell” if a private equity investor could join the carmaker consortium, Hackenberg said. He declined to comment further as the bidding process is still going on and talks are confidential.

HERE supplies maps data for about 80 percent of cars with in-dash navigation systems in North America and Europe. Its competitors are TomTom NV, the Dutch maker of navigation software and devices, and Google Inc.