Garmin Challenges TomTom for Tele Atlas

Three months after TomTom’s €1.8-billion bid for Tele Atlas, Garmin is making a play for the digital mapping data company, with a $3.3-billion bid of its own — a bid fueled by a concern that Garmin not be forced to buy its mapping data from a competitor (an inevitability if TomTom owned Tele Atlas, since Nokia has acquired Navteq). More news coverage: AP, CNN, Investors Business Daily. Blogs: Engadget, GeoCarta, O’Reilly Radar, Valleywag.

It’ll be interesting to see if a bidding war ensues: TomTom has been given until the 8th to match Garmin’s offer or Tele Atlas will terminate their takeover agreement (via All Points Blog). And Garmin’s bid may well succeed: their market capitalization is four times TomTom’s. Still, the Motley Fool argues that Garmin’s ploy is to make its competitor match its bid and pay through the nose for Tele Atlas, since Garmin’s data provider has historically been Navteq (with Tele Atlas providing data to TomTom) (via All Points Blog).

My completely uninformed impression is that once TomTom made the play for Tele Atlas, mapping data clients immediately responded as though this is a game of musical chairs: each desperate to avoid being left standing without a mapping data provider. Trouble is, there are only two chairs in this game — Navteq and Tele Atlas — and more than two major clients.