Garmin in Deal With Nokia for GPS-Enabled Devices?

Includes: GRMN, NOK, NVT-OLD
by: Tiernan Ray

Rumors passing here and there today suggest portable navigation device [PND] maker Garmin (NASDAQ:GRMN) may have a deal in the works with Nokia (NYSE:NOK) for global positioning system-enabled handheld devices. I checked in with analyst Jeff Rath of Canaccord Adams who covers Garmin and while he’s heard the rumors but has nothing specific on them, he offered some intelligent speculation and pointed to something more interesting from a stock perspective.

Garmin may be benefitting from the fact that the European Union is sounding not so friendly to Nokia’s bid to purchase Navteq (NVT-OLD), one of two providers of mapping data that’s used in PNDs, says Rath. The thinking is that if Nokia’s deal is broken by the EU, Nokia may turn around and do a deal with Garmin. The EU is also throwing up objections about Dutch PND maker Tom Tom’s (TOM2.AS) pending acquisition of the other maps provider, Tele Atlas. Moreover, if both deals fold, Garmin will not be threatened with two hardware makers controlling the world’s two major sources of mapping data, which would put Garmin in a more comfortable position.

While Rath has no idea whether there’s substance to the rumors, he notes the more interesting fact that the stock prices of both Navteq and Tele Atlas have declined substantially from the offer prices announced by Nokia and Tom Tom. The arbitrage opportunity is now quite substantial if one were to bet in favor of the two deals going through while the market seems to be betting they won’t happen. Navteq is trading at $68.90 today, well below the $78 offer price from Nokia, while Tele Atlas closed today at about 23 Euros per share on the Amsterdam exchange, well below Tom Tom’s 30 Euro offer price. (Though it did close up over 10%, mind you.) Rath calculates the annualized return on those two deals could be 88% in the first case and over 100% in the latter case, assuming the deals actually get done and they close quickly.

So, if you know which way the European Union will go, and you feel like playing against the odds, there’s some serious money to be made here. Garmin shares, meanwhile, are up just under 3% at $61.81, which is not a huge move considering the Nasdaq is up over 3%.