Garmin Tops TomTom Bid for Tele Atlas

Includes: GRMN, NOK, NVT-OLD
by: Eric Savitz

Wow, did Garmin (NASDAQ:GRMN) just panic?

The maker of GPS devices Wednesday morning announced a 2.3 billion Euro bid for TeleAtlas, offering 24.50 per share in cash for the provider of digital maps. The bid is 15% above the 21.25 per share offer for Tele Atlas from Garmin rival TomTom, which was announced in July. If you are wondering whether Garmin might have been better off finding another mapping company to buy, well, there weren’t many choices, given Nokia’s (NYSE:NOK) recent deal to buy Tele Atlas rival Navteq (NVT-OLD) for $8.1 billion.

Tele Atlas has said it is weighing Garmin’s offer. In an interesting twist, Reuters notes that Tele Atlas shares had been trading above the bid price since the announcement of Nokia’s deal with Navteq.

Meanwhile, Garmin reported third quarter revenue of $729 million, with EPS of 88 cents, beating Street estimates of $683.2 million and 82 cents. For the full year, the company said it expects revenue to top $2.9 billion, with EPS of more than $3.40. The Street has been looking for $3.42 billion and $3.42.

A couple of other notes on Garmin’s Tele Atlas bid. The company said that in addition to a cash balance of $1 billion, it has secured financing commitments for the offer. The company said it would make Tele Atlas’ content available to “the entire navigation market on a non-discriminatory basis.” The company also said it would keep the existing Tele Atlas management team and all of its employees. Garmin said it called Tele Atlas execs about the bid today, and that there had been no previous discussions about a combination. Garmin also said that while it would prefer to have the support of the Tele Atlas board for its offer, it would proceed with its bid without their support.

Garmin shares Wednesday morning are down $6.30, or 5.2%, at $114.18. In Amsterdam, TomTom shares are down 12.06 Euros, or 17.8%, at 55.72; there is anticipation that the company will respond with a higher offer. Tele Atlas shares, also traded in Amsterdam, have soared right past the bid price, and now trade at 27.69, up 3.68, or 15.3%.