Chinese firms drop plans to invest in HERE due to US opposition

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FRANKFURT (Reuters) – A Chinese-led group has withdrawn its offer to buy a stake in German carmaker-backed mapping company HERE after it failed to win approval from a US national security oversight board.

Chinese mapping company Navinfo said on Tuesday that the company and partners Chinese internet giant Tencent and Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC had dropped plans to take a 10% stake in the company.

HERE, whose controlling shareholders are BMW, Daimler AG and VW’s Audi business, is developing high-resolution maps to enable future autonomous driving. Its current generation of lower-resolution mapping services are used for location services in vehicles, by online services and by logistics companies.

Navinfo said in a statement that it spent months after the deal was announced in January seeking approval from the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS). But after meeting CFIUS resistance, the group had decided to pull its investment offer. It did not give details of why CFIUS opposed the investment.

HERE, the world’s biggest provider of digital maps for the automotive industry, conducts business in the United States and is 15% owned by US chipmaker Intel Corp.

Chinese investments in companies the US government considers important to national security have come under increasing scrutiny from CFIUS.

An analyst who is familiar with CFIUS, a secretive interagency panel chaired by the US Treasury, said CFIUS has left recent Chinese deals in limbo instead of blocking them outright.

“You get the sense that this [US] administration would just rather have these transactions fall off, just run out the clock on the transactions,” the analyst said.

Navinfo, Tencent and GIC had planned to take a 10% stake by acquiring shares from BMW, Daimler and Audi.

Last year CFIUS blocked plans by a Chinese company to acquire the assets of German electronic chipmaker Aixtron and a second deal in which Philips planned to sell its Lumileds lighting business to a Chinese fund.

Navinfo and Amsterdam-based HERE said in separate statements that they both still planned to cooperate to create high resolution maps for future autonomous driving services in China, without Navinfo or partners taking a financial stake in HERE.

“The decision follows a regulatory review process during which the parties determined there was no practicable path to receiving the necessary approval for the transaction to proceed,” HERE said in a statement.

Separately, Japanese auto electronics maker Pioneer Corp said last week that it plans to buy a stake of less than 1% in HERE.

(By Eric Auchard; Additional reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington D.C.; Editing by Arno Schuetze and Susan Fenton)

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