Nokia is looking to sell its loss-making Here Maps division to Apple for more than €3bn (£2.1bn, $3.2bn) in a bid to focus its operations on mobile networking equipment and services to compete with Huawei.
As well as the iPhone maker, Nokia is advertising its mapping business to Amazon, Chinese retail giant Alibaba, Facebook, a group of German carmakers, and private equity firms, among others, sources with knowledge of the matter said.
Speaking to Bloomberg, one source said Chinese web services company Baidu, Sirius XM Holdings, a US broadcasting company, and Harman International Industries, a US audio and automotive equipment manufacturer, were all interested. A first round of bidding for the Here unit is due to close by 1 May. When contacted by IBTimes UK, a spokesperson for Here Maps said they were unable to comment on "market rumours".
The report comes just a day after German publication Manager Magazine reported Nokia was looking to sell Here to Uber, BMW, Audi and Daimler. It is no surprise that Nokia is wanting to offload Here, as according to its own financial reports the division has decreased in value from $8.1bn when it was bought in 2008, to around $2.1bn in 2014.
Apple's apparent interest in Here comes three years after the company parted ways with Google to launch its own mapping application for iOS. The app got off to a bad start, with entire towns in the wrong location, large areas of landscape covered only by black and white satellite imagery, and others obscured by cloud. 3D imaging, a main selling point of the app, was also wildly inaccurate in places and the whole episode forced Apple CEO Tim Cook to publicly apologise, even suggesting users switch to Google Maps.
The iPhone, iPad and Mac app is in a better position now, but the company may well still see Here as a valuable asset - and with $178bn in the bank, buying it would be pocket change.
As for Amazon, it too could incorporate Here Maps within its fledgling Fire phone division and its more successful Fire tablet offerings, as well as sharing the mapping data with its delivery and logistics teams.
Alibaba, China's largest e-commerce, would surely use Here for a similar purpose, while the German car makers (thought to include Volkswagen Group) would use Here for improved satellite navigation systems. Sirius, meanwhile, is looking to expand its satellite radio offerings to connect more cars to the internet.