Report: Waze Could Be In Play Again, With Google The Latest Suitor. Or Not Actually

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Google is the latest suitor to be reportedly circling around social sat-nav smartphone app Waze. Bloomberg reports ‘people familiar with the matter’ who say Mountain View is considering an acquisition, and that Waze is “fielding expressions of interest from multiple parties and is seeking more than $1 billion”. However sources contacted by TechCrunch have poured cold water on the Google rumour.

We’ve reached out to Google and Waze but at the time of writing neither company could be reached for comment. Update: A spokeswoman for Waze said: “We don’t comment on rumors or speculation.”

Earlier this month we covered reports that Facebook was sniffing around the mapping and traffic service, with a view to ramping up its mobile efforts. Meanwhile Apple has also previously been linked with a Waze buy – having had its own highly public problems with maps. Google has also previously been rumoured to be interested, as has Microsoft. So that’s the full complement of tech giants all apparently eyeing up the same crowdsourced traffic startup.

Waze was founded in 2007 and has raised some $67 million in VC funding from backers including Kleiner Perkins, BlueRun Ventures, Magma Venture Partners, Vertex Venture Capital, and Li Ka-shing, according to Crunchbase. In February it announced it had grown to 40 million registered users, some of whom it picked up during Apple’s mapgate troubles. Waze has offices in the U.S. and Israel — the latter being where its R&D is based.

A key blocker for any Waze acquisition has been apparent investor conflict over the terms of any deal, with questions about whether Waze would move  fully to the U.S. or keep R&D in Israel causing disagreements. There has also been investor conflict about whether to accept a lower, mostly cash offer or a higher offer comprised of more shares, according to our sources. Rumours of big tech suitors like Google sniffing around could also be a way for Waze investors to try to leverage more out of an acquisition — by making other suitors, such as Facebook (whose up to $1 billion interest in Waze we have previously confirmed), up their own offers.

Bloomberg’s sources claim Google and “other large tech companies” — but not Apple — have approached Waze about a possible acquisition since its talks with Facebook become public. However they also say none of the bidders is close to clinching a deal, and add that the talks may fall apart or Waze may walk away and seek more VC funding to continue expanding its mapping program. So really that’s saying everything is still to play for and any outcome is possible at this point.

To our ear, the most plausible-sounding scenario here is that investors are trying to leverage more out of a possible Facebook acquisition of Waze. Especially because multiple credible sources contacted by TechCrunch have told us that the Google acquisition rumour is not at all true.