Google eyes map-software maker Waze

Tech giant's bid may start takeover battle with Facebook for Waze, which seeks US$1 billion

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 May, 2013, 1:46pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 May, 2013, 5:14am

Google, maker of the Android operating system, is considering buying map-software provider Waze, setting up a possible bidding war with Facebook, people familiar with the matter said.

Waze was fielding expressions of interest from multiple parties and was seeking more than US$1 billion, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private.

The start-up might also remain independent, instead seeking to raise a round of venture capital financing, the people said.

As consumers gravitate towards mobile devices away from laptops and desktops, Facebook, Google and other companies are beefing up efforts to court customers on the go.

The potential bidding tussle for Waze, which uses information from online communities to improve driving directions, reflects the widening importance of maps on smartphones and other handheld gadgets.

Facebook had held talks to buy Waze for as much as US$1 billion, two people said earlier this month.

Google and other large technology companies had approached Waze about a possible deal since the Facebook talks became public, they said. None of the bidders was close to clinching a deal and the talks might fall apart.

Waze may also walk away from the discussions and use more venture capital backing to expand its mapping program, which has more than 40 million users.

Google has a widely used mapping tool and could use Waze's technology to add social features to the software. A takeover would also eliminate a competitive threat and keep the start-up out of the hands of another company.

Apple, which distributes a competing mapping tool, was not part of the discussions, a person said.

Waze's investors included Microsoft, people said. The start-up raised US$30 million in 2011 in a funding round led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Li Ka-shing's Horizons Ventures. Earlier investors have included Magma Venture Partners and Vertex Venture Capital in Israel, and BlueRun Ventures in Silicon Valley.

A spokesman for Waze declined to comment.

Waze announced last month a partnership with IMS Internet Media Services to expand in Latin America. Waze's mobile app alerts users to potential traffic slowdowns or suggests alternative ways to reach destinations. The service also notifies drivers of roadworks, speed traps and other potential hazards using input from users.

Waze, a free service, generates revenue through location-based advertising. Its tools are also available over the web.