Vodafone offers US$30m for LBS developer

In a surprise move, Vodafone has offered US$30 million in cash to acquire Swedish-based Wayfinder Systems, a specialist developer of navigation and LBS technology. This unexpected bid (at a 250 per cent premium over Wayfinder's closing price) is thought to be the first time a mobile operator has attempted to acquire an LBS company, and would seem to be at odds with Vodafone's recently stated focus on cost control and driving growth from its core assets.

Wayfinder Systems, which was born out of an Ericsson development project in 1989, has launched a portfolio of location applications that pushes the map through the mobile Internet and provides voice-guided navigation, traffic information and details on other entertainment venues. The application is said to operate on Sony Ericsson, Nokia and Blackberry handsets, and the company presently has business relationships with mobile operators, including Telenor, O2 AT&T, Vodafone and Orange.

Commenting on the deal, IDC analyst Jonathan Arber said Vodafone would now be able to develop its existing LBS services more rapidly: "There is still considerable growth in the mobile navigation space, and many of the most attractive acquisition targets are rapidly being snapped up. As such we would expect a minor flurry of similar acquisitions to follow in the coming 6-12 months, as operators and other players seek to strengthen their position. "

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