Nokia on Sunday night confirmed it will sell its Here maps unit to a consortium of three German car makers for 2.8 billion euros ($3.07 billion), ending weeks of speculation over the fate of the largest alternative to Google Maps.
The sale, to Audi, BMW Group and Daimler, is expected to close in the first quarter of 2016 and is subject to customary approvals, Nokia said. Each car maker will hold an equal stake in the maps business.
A key question had been whether the carmakers will keep Nokia’s maps to themselves or license to others. At least for now, the carmakers insist the technology will remain broadly available. Current customers of Here include most major carmakers, as well as Microsoft, Amazon, Samsung and other technology companies.
“The acquisition is intended to secure the long-term availability of Here’s products and services as an open, independent and value creating platform for cloud-based maps and other mobility services accessible to all customers from the automotive industry and other sectors,” the carmakers said in their press release announcing the purchase. “The management of Here will continue to be independent — with the goal of moving the Here business case forward as a platform, open to all customers. The consortium will not interfere into operational business.”
Companies like Uber and Baidu were initially said to be among the potential acquirers of the business, but in recent weeks the German carmakers emerged as the leading — and perhaps only — bidder.
Although Nokia’s maps are widely used, the business itself has never been highly lucrative and is expensive, given the need to be constantly collecting new and more detailed map data. As a result, few companies wanted to buy Here even though its data is seen as critically important and it would have been a blow had it ceased being widely licensed.
Having already sold its mobile phone business to Microsoft, Nokia will have two remaining businesses once the Here deal closes — its Nokia Networks equipment unit and a far smaller technologies operation focused on patent licensing, brand licensing and new ventures, such as its just-announced virtual reality camera. Nokia also hopes to see its name once again on phones starting next year, assuming it can find the right hardware partner.
Nokia Networks is in the process of growing through its pending deal to acquire rival Alcatel-Lucent. That deal is proceeding and could close ahead of schedule, Alcatel-Lucent CEO Michel Combes told Re/code last month.
“With this step we complete the latest stage of Nokia’s transformation,” Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri said in a statement. “Going forward, we will focus on our planned combination with Alcatel-Lucent. Once that is complete, Nokia will be a renewed company, with a world-leading network technology and services business, as well as the licensing and innovation engine of Nokia Technologies.”
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.