March 28, 2018 / 3:33 PM / 23 days ago

Dutch navigation firm TomTom looks for potential buyer - sources

* TomTom hit by drop in personal navigation device sales

* Asian investors among those being tapped

* TomTom developing self-driving car navigation

* Possible regulatory hurdles over sensitive technology

By Kane Wu, Arno Schuetze and Toby Sterling

AMSTERDAM, March 28 (Reuters) - TomTom NV, the Dutch supplier of digital maps and navigation technology, has enlisted Deutsche Bank to help with the possible sale of the whole firm or a minority stake, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

TomTom, listed in Amsterdam with a market capitalisation of about 1.74 billion euros ($2.2 billion), was tapping a range of potential buyers, including Asian investors, they told Reuters, adding that the firm was considering several strategic options.

TomTom and Deutsche Bank both declined to comment.

The company, one of the world’s leading providers of navigation and mapping products used in mobiles and other devices, has struggled in recent quarters as demand falls for personal navigation devices, once its core business.

Any buyer, however, could face regulatory hurdles as mapping technology and global position system (GPS) technology is seen as sensitive for national security in most countries, particularly by the United States and China.

Group revenues at TomTom - whose partners and clients include Apple, Microsoft, Uber, Daimler and Baidu Inc - fell 9 percent to 903 million euros in 2017 and are forecast to drop to 800 million euros in 2018.

The company reported a 204 million euro loss in 2017, as it was forced to write down the value of its consumer products business, which also sells watches and cameras.

TomTom’s shares were trading at 7.37 euros on Wednesday, after peaking at more than 12 euros a share in December 2015.

Chief Executive Harold Goddijn, one of TomTom’s four founders who each have an 11.1 percent stake, has said the company’s future is in supplying technology for automated driving and self driving cars. TomTom won a spate of contracts to supply digital maps to major carmakers in 2015 and 2016.

Goddijn has promised more will follow in 2018.

When Dutch tycoon John De Mol bought a 5 percent stake in the firm in 2015, Dutch daily Het Financieele Dagblad reported that he had urged TomTom to consider tie-ups with Chinese firms Baidu or Tencent.

De Mol’s spokeswoman declined to comment at the time.

The Dutch shareholders’ union VEB has said TomTom should consider options such as selling off some units, a management buyout, acquisitions or finding a buyer.

It has questioned whether the founders and board are sufficiently protecting the interests of minority shareholders. (Reporting by Toby Sterling in Amsterdam, Arno Schuetze in Frankfurt and Kane Wu in Hong Kong Editing by Edmund Blair)

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