Contact: Brenon Daly
When we last checked in with Networks In Motion (NiM) two weeks ago, we noted that the turn-by-turn navigation vendor had just been stepped on by the not-so-gentle giant, Google. As it turns out, NiM’s valuation got stepped on a bit, too. The Aliso Viejo, California-based company sold itself Tuesday to TeleCommunication Systems for $170m. Terms call for TeleCommunication to hand over $110m in cash and $20m in shares, along with a $40m note. Raymond James & Associates advised TeleCommunication Systems while Jefferies & Co advised NiM on the transaction, which is expected to close by the end of the month.
The offer values NiM at 2.3 times 2009 revenue and 1.7x the company’s projected sales for next year, according to our understanding. NiM’s expectation of $100m in sales in 2010, representing 33% growth, strikes us as a bit aggressive. The reason? Google has started giving away a turn-by-turn navigation product for select Android devices that run on Verizon Wireless, the only network on which NiM currently offers its service. Although the threat of Google completely wiping away NiM’s business is grossly overblown, we suspect that it did put some pressure on the price of the company. NiM’s early focus on feature phones gave competitors such as TeleNav an early lead on smartphones such as BlackBerry and Windows Mobile. According to one rumor, T-Mobile and NiM had been close to a deal earlier this year. Without the ‘Google overhang,’ we could imagine that NiM would be selling for quite a bit more than the $170m that TeleCommunication Systems is slated to pay.
That said, it’s actually a decent exit for seven-year-old NiM. Although it’s getting an admittedly so-so multiple for its business, the company is providing a solid return for its backers, largely because it didn’t raise much money. It drew in a total of less than $20m, with Mission Ventures and Redpoint Ventures as early NiM backers and Sutter Hill Ventures joining in the third – and last – round of NiM funding in March 2006. (There was also some money from unnamed strategic investors.) Unlike rival TeleNav, NiM was unlikely to go public because of concerns about competition from Google. (TeleNav, which put in its IPO paperwork a month ago, isn’t immediately threatened by Google because the latter’s service isn’t yet available on TeleNav’s networks, AT&T and Sprint.) A solid (if not spectacular) trade sale of NiM in the face of growing competition from Google isn’t a bad bit of navigation for the startup at all.