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German carmakers said to near US$3b deal for Nokia's maps

[LONDON] A group of German luxury-car makers including BMW AG are close to sealing the purchase of Nokia Oyj's digital-maps business for about 2.7 billion euros, according to people familiar with the matter.

An announcement could be made as soon as Monday, said the people, who asked not to be named because the negotiations are private. An agreement hasn't been finalized between Nokia and the consortium consisting of BMW, Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler AG and Audi AG, and a deal could be delayed or still fall apart.

Representatives for the carmakers and a spokesman for Espoo, Finland-based Nokia declined to comment. A BMW, Audi and Mercedes, which are all vying for the lead in global luxury-car sales, are taking an unprecedented step by teaming up on an acquisition of this scale. With Google Inc testing its own self-driving cars, the bid for the Nokia unit - called HERE - shows the importance of securing access to the detailed maps that smart vehicles of the future will require.

The carmakers, which are keen to protect driver data from Google, first approached Nokia about a sale. As a key source of HERE's revenue, they've had the upper hand in the competition to acquire the business, which had attracted private equity investors as well as Uber Technologies Inc. HERE supplies maps data to about 80 per cent of cars with in-dash navigation systems in North America and Europe.

Nokia said Thursday that its strategic review of HERE was at an "advanced stage."