Saturday, May 9, 2015

Uber Bids for Nokia Maps Service to Lessen Google Reliance

Beyond the potential transaction this story is interesting for what it says about the apparently deteriorating Google/Uber relationship.
For more see "Night of the Long Knives: "Google Vs. Uber in the Rush To Drive You Around, Driverless" (GOOG)"

From the Wall street Journal's Digits blog:
Uber is ready to spend big to avoid becoming dependent on Google’s mapping technology as it spreads beyond taxi rides.

The ridesharing company has submitted a bid to acquire Nokia’s location services unit, Here, said a person familiar with the matter. It is competing against Germany’s three leading automakers, BMW, Audi and Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz, which are bidding to take a majority stake in a mapping service that has emerged as a key component to future cars.

The New York Times earlier reported on Uber’s bid, writing that the company could pay up to $3 billion for the mapping group. Uber and Nokia spokespeople declined to comment.

Uber is seeking to bolster its mapping capabilities as it expands to more than 250 cities around the world and develops new automotive technologies, such as self-driving cars. Uber is also pushing into the delivery business, testing services that  employ its fleet of drivers to ship meals, products and packages. The company has been reliant on mapping and navigation software owned by Apple and Google to direct drivers around cities, but has in recent months taken steps to develop its own maps.

Uber announced its first publicly-disclosed acquisition in March, when it acquired deCarta, a small mapping software maker with 40 employees. Earlier this year, the company shared details of a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University to develop driverless car and mapping technology.

The startup’s push to control more of its own mapping technology has come amid reports that Google has tested its own carpooling app for employees. Google, through its venture arm, is a major investor in Uber and one of its top executives, David Drummond, sits on Uber’s board of directors.

An acquisition of Here could require a large portion of the more than $5 billion Uber has raised in debt and equity over the years from a long list of investors who have been eager to own a piece of the fast-growing ridesharing startup. Uber most recently raised $1.6 billion in convertible debt from wealthy clients of Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

In its bid for Nokia’s mapping unit, Uber is competing with a deep-pocketed consortium of international companies. The three German automakers have joined with Chinese search engine Baidu to launch a formal bid to acquire a majority stake in Here, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month. That bid could value Here at more than €2 billion ($2.2 billion), people familiar with the matter said....MORE