Bosch buys 5 percent stake in mapping firm HERE

PARIS (Reuters) - Robert Bosch GmbH, the German auto supplier and engineering group, said on Thursday it had agreed to buy a 5 percent stake in HERE, the digital mapping firm jointly controlled by carmakers BMW BMWG.DE, Daimler DAIGn.DE and Volkswagen's VOWG_p.DE Audi.

Privately held Bosch did not disclose financial terms for the deal, expected to close by the end of March, subject to regulatory approvals.

The German carmaker consortium acquired HERE from Finnish telecoms group Nokia NOKIA.HE for 2.8 billion euros ($3.4 billion) in 2015, in part to avoid becoming dependent on third-party mapping providers such as Alphabet's GOOGL.O Google, a competitor in the race to develop self-driving cars. Chip maker Intel INTC.O also holds a 15 percent stake.

Bosch’s disclosure referred to plans by HERE to increase its diversification into non-automotive applications - a move that could help offset risks and uncertainties surrounding the eventual arrival of fully autonomous cars for the mass market.

“Bosch is more than cars,” Chief Executive Volkmar Denner said in the statement. He said the company saw “synergies with data-based services for Industry 4.0, smart homes and smart cities” - terms broadly describing the use of technology platforms to find efficiencies everywhere from the factory floor to road traffic management.

Rival auto supplier Continental CONG.DE has also expressed interest in buying a HERE stake.

A group of investors led by Chinese mapping firm Navinfo 002405.SZ and internet giant Tencent 0700.HK in September canceled a previously announced plan to buy 10 percent of HERE, after failing to win U.S. approval.

Reporting by Laurence Frost; Editing by Richard Balmforth