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Nokia Targeting Apple, Alibaba and Amazon in Maps-Unit Sale

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Nokia Oyj, the Finnish company selling its money-losing maps business, is trying to drum up interest from some of the biggest names in technology including Apple Inc., Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Amazon.com Inc., people with knowledge of the matter said.

Those companies as well as Facebook Inc., a group of German carmakers, and private-equity firms are among the companies looking at Nokia’s maps operations, known as HERE, highlighting the ubiquity and utility of location-based services. Nokia is seeking more than 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) from a sale of the unit, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private information.

Sirius XM Holdings Inc. and Harman International Industries Inc. also were approached about their interest, said the people. First-round bids for the unit are due at the end of next week, one person said.

Baidu Inc., the owner of China’s largest Internet search engine, is considering a bid for the maps business, according to a person familiar with the matter. Such a bid could be as part of a consortium, the person said.

The mapping assets have lost value: Nokia bought them for $8.1 billion in 2008. They were worth about 2 billion euros last year, according to Nokia’s financial reports.

Sirius, Baidu

The company wants to sell the mapping unit as it focuses on mobile-network equipment and services to better compete with Huawei Technologies Co. Nokia said last week it agreed to buy Alcatel-Lucent for 15.6 billion euros to create the world’s largest supplier of equipment that powers mobile-phone networks.

Some of the world’s largest technology companies may be interested in Nokia’s mapping technology to improve their navigational software, a standard feature of smartphones. Apple struggled in 2012 when it debuted mapping software for its operating system, which gave users poor directions and mislabeled landmarks. Apple eventually allowed Google Inc.’s mapping application on iPhones and iPads to assuage critics.

Sirius, the world’s largest satellite-radio provider, is focusing on expanding its offerings to connect automobiles to the Internet. Alibaba, the largest Chinese e-commerce company, and Baidu, China’s largest search engine, are also interested in broadening their portfolios to offer more products and services to users.

Private-equity firms Silver Lake Management, Hellman & Friedman, Apax Partners and General Atlantic may also bid, the people said.

A spokesman for Nokia declined to comment, as did representatives for Apple, Alibaba, Facebook, Sirius, Baidu, Harman, Silver Lake, General Atlantic and Hellman & Friedman. Spokesmen for Amazon and Apax didn’t respond to requests for comment.

German publication Manager Magazin reported Wednesday that companies including Facebook, a group of German carmakers including Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, Volkswagen AG’s Audi and Daimler AG, and Hellman & Friedman were also looking at HERE.

Nokia is working with a financial adviser to sell its maps division, Bloomberg reported April 10.

HERE reported full-year sales of 970 million euros and an operating loss of 1.24 billion euros, including a goodwill impairment of 1.21 billion euros, according to Nokia’s annual report. In January, Nokia projected rising sales for its maps and patents divisions for 2015.

Nokia shares fell 2.5 percent to 7.32 euros at 10:09 a.m. local time in Helsinki, valuing the company at almost 27 billion euros.