Facebook in advanced talks to buy Waze

If the $500 million deal is realized, this would be Facebook's third acquisition in Israel.

Facebook Inc. (Nasdaq: FB) is in advanced talks to buy Israeli navigation and traffic congestion app company Waze Ltd. for $500 million.

Waze declined to respond to queries by "Globes" on the subject. When asked whether Facebook would close the company, as it has done with its previous acquisitions, Waze replied, "Don’t worry, we'll be all right."

There were reports in January that Waze was in talks with Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) at a company value of $400 million, but no deal materialized.

If the deal is realized, this will be Facebook's third acquisition in Israel having bought facial recognition company Face.com in 2012 for $60 million, and mobile app company Snaptu for $70 million in 2011. In both cases, the companies were closed down in Israel with the senior executives going to work for Facebook in California.

One major bone of contention is whether Waze should become a Facebook R&D center in Israel or whether as in its previous acquisitions, the company would be closed down.

In late August 2012, there were reports that Facebook was in talks to acquire Waze, and the company's executive met with Facebook representatives in Israel, but no deal emerged from the talks.

Waze has developed one of the most well-known and popular navigation apps on the market. The app can be used by smartphones, tablets, and vehicle systems, providing GPS navigation, crowdsourced-based updates about congestion, police, traffic cameras, accidents, and road hazards. The company has more than 34 million subscribers, and expects to reach 70 million by the end of the year.

Founded in 2009, Waze raised $30 million in October 2012 from Li Ka-Shing's Horizons Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and Ifund. The company has raised $67 million to date. Other investors include BlueRun Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, Microsoft Corporation (Nasdaq: MSFT), Magma Venture Partners, and Vertex Venture Capital.

A link-up with Facebook could greatly improve Waze's performance, as it is barely known outside Israel and the US. Exposure through Facebook could greatly boost Waze's users database, which would enable the company to obtain a better picture of traffic conditions in different countries, and provide more detailed road maps.

For Facebook, Waze offers it the chance of contacting friends when they are in cars. Facebook will be able to offer advertising to friends based on their driving patterns, even before they leave home, and not just based on content. Facebook could enable friends to share information while in cars, by both text and voice, about their driving experience.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on May 9, 2013

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2013

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