Tele Atlas deal approval cheers Nokia

PARIS Mon May 19, 2008 2:56pm EDT

1 of 2. Rick Simonson of Nokia Oyj speaks during the Reuters Global Technology, Media and Telecom Summit at the Thomson Reuters headquarters in New York City May 19, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Joshua Lott

PARIS (Reuters) - Nokia (NOK1V.HE), the world's top cellphone maker, was encouraged by a European Union decision last week to approve TomTom's (TOM2.AS) acquisition of Tele Atlas TA.AS as it seeks to buy U.S. digital maps firm Navteq NVT.N, Nokia's finance head said.

"It was encouraging to me. It was right, and encouraging," Rick Simonson told the Reuters Technology, Media and Telecoms Summit in New York in comments heard by conference call in Paris on Monday.

In March, the European Commission opened an in-depth investigation into Nokia's $8.1 billion offer for Navteq. Nokia has received all other necessary approvals for the deal, including from United States authorities.

"Our discussions are productive there, they continue to be," Simonson said.

"We believe that we presented in the agreement how we would fairly handle fair, non-discriminatory offering of map data to other users ... that's the heart of why there isn't a competitive issue here," he said.

The European Commission has told customers and competitors of Nokia and Navteq that their deal resembles the TomTom-Tele Atlas transaction in some ways, confidential Commission questionnaires obtained previously by Reuters showed.

But some of the facts of the case were different from the TomTom-Tele Atlas deal.

Nokia is looking for new revenue sources as the mobile phone industry matures and buying Navteq would give it a stronghold in the navigation business, one of the fastest-growing segments in the technology industry.

It is also one of the cornerstones of Nokia's new push towards Internet services. The cellphone maker wants to benefit from close access to maps, the value of which it expects to raise by adding context such as geographical data to its Internet services.

"We remain very bullish on this," Simonson said. "When you start to bring context in ... that's really where the revolution is going to be.

"Bringing some of the fixed-line Internet models to the mobile device, that's why Navteq is a core element to build and accelerate what we are already doing."

The Commission has until August 8 to decide, but usually acts a week or two early.

(For summit blog: summitnotebook.reuters.com/ )