GIC to jointly buy 10% stake in digital maps firm Here

Here's intelligent mapping services (left) provide constantly updated maps that track every lane, obstacle, traffic condition and speed limit that may lie ahead, to enable autonomous vehicles to move safely. GIC will co-invest in Here with Chinese ma
Here's intelligent mapping services (above) provide constantly updated maps that track every lane, obstacle, traffic condition and speed limit that may lie ahead, to enable autonomous vehicles to move safely. GIC will co-invest in Here with Chinese mapping company NavInfo and Internet services group Tencent.PHOTO: HERE 360

Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC is part of a consortium that intends to buy a 10 per cent stake in digital maps firm Here which provides maps and location services in almost 200 countries.

The deal will involve GIC co-investing in the firm Here with Chinese mapping company NavInfo and Internet services group Tencent, the firms said in a joint statement yesterday.

They will acquire the stake from German carmakers Audi, BMW and Daimler, which will reduce "their indirect shareholding in Here in equal measure", the statement added.

It was not announced how much the consortium will pay for the 10 per cent stake, but the carmakers had paid about €2.8 billion (S$4.2 billion) to Nokia for Here last year.

That acquisition was largely seen as a way to gain access to the digital mapping services that are important to driverless car technology.

"As a long-term value investor, we are confident Here is well positioned to extend its success in automotive space to areas of IoT (Internet of things), smart cities and fleet management," said GIC Private Equity chief investment officer Choo Yong Cheen. He added that GIC believes the strategic collaboration with NavInfo and Tencent will generate good momentum for Here's global expansion and development of a "highly automated driving map".

Here plans to form a 50:50 joint venture with NavInfo to extend its offering to China using NavInfo's wide range of data and services, the firms said in the statement.

Among the areas for collaboration are the creation and provision of high-definition mapping and location services for autonomous cars.

High-definition mapping - which uses many different data sources - enables driverless vehicles to move safely by "providing precise and constantly updated information about their surroundings", according to Here 360, the firm's official blog.

"The automotive industry is on the eve of revolution to autonomous driving and alternative energy. We are excited about joining forces and uniting market leaders to deliver outstanding value and take our industry to the next level," noted NavInfo chief executive Patrick Cheng.

Tencent will use Here's mapping and location platform services in its own products and services, in China and internationally. Mr Julian Ma, the firm's vice-president of mobile Internet group, said the strategic partnership "also facilitates Tencent's exploration of future technologies, including autonomous driving and artificial intelligence".

Here chief executive Edzard Overbeek added: "Our intention has been to broaden our shareholder base to reflect how location intelligence will fuel invention and expansion across different industries in all parts of the world."

The planned transaction is expected to be completed in the first half of next year, subject to regulatory approvals.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 28, 2016, with the headline 'GIC to jointly buy 10% stake in digital maps firm Here'. Print Edition | Subscribe