EC opens antitrust probe of Nokia-Navteq deal

Mobile phone maker's strong market position cited

BRUSSELS — Fears that Nokia Corp., the world's biggest mobile phone maker, might muscle out rivals in the burgeoning market for GPS navigation devices, the European Commission today said it has opened an in-depth investigation of the Finnish company's plans to acquire Navteq, a U.S. producer of digital maps.

Navteq is one of two producers of digital maps that cover all of Europe — the other is Dutch firm Tele Atlas, itself part of an in-depth merger investigation by the commission.

"The commission's initial market investigation has indicated that the proposed merger raises serious doubts with regards to vertical competition concerns," the commission said in a statement.

In light of the duopoly in the market for navigable digital maps and Nokia's strong position on the market for mobile handsets, the deal might "lead to a significant impediment of competition," it said.

The commission has until Aug. 8 to reach a conclusion about the deal.

Meanwhile, the separate investigation of TomTom, a Dutch company that plans to acquire Tele Atlas, has been extended to May 21, after the regulator and the companies agreed more time would be useful, commission spokesman Jonathan Todd said in an interview.

The market for satellite navigation devices, which has emerged over the past five years, is undergoing rapid consolidation.

Garmin, in the U.S., tried to acquire Tele Atlas last year but withdrew its offer after being outbid by TomTom.

Garmin, meanwhile, struck a deal with Navteq, giving the device maker access to Navteq's maps until 2015.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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