Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I'm wazed and confused: why is the value of TomTom still beaten down and off the map?

Back in June of this year, when Google announced the purchase of navigation app maker Waze for $1 billion, I was sure that the next big deal to be announced would be a purchase of TomTom. TomTom is a leading vendor of navigation devices, but the real value in TomTom is their Tele Atlas digital maps unit. TomTom purchased Tele Atlas in 2007 for €2.9 billion or around $4 billion at the time. What's amazing is that TomTom's current enterprise value is $1.4 billion, or less than half of what it paid for Tele Atlas six years ago. And around 1/3 the current value of Yelp.

Over the years, smartphone vendors have been busy paying top dollar for location-related companies. Apple, for example, who previously told the world to "get lost" with their own-branded maps and navigation services, recently bought Locationary and Embark, to begin bringing more maps talent and code in-house.

Yet in the on-going location frenzy, TomTom and Tele Atlas were left alone -- and rather unloved. Many industry and Wall Street analysts (and I) have predicted that TomTom would be bought out by someone. Apple, Toyota, Microsoft. Somebody. But this hasn't happened yet.

Now this leads one to question the value of digital maps altogether. Has maps data been so commoditized by Google and crowd-sourced approaches that complete collections are worth practically nothing? I have to admit that I'm not sure what's going on here. Perhaps all the value has moved up the stack to services that run on top of maps.

So far for TomTom, the journey has not been much of a reward. Will anyone find value here?

Verdict: TomTom is hands down a loser in the location frenzy.


No comments: