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Facebook Inc. (Nasdaq: FB) is in advanced talks to buy Israeli navigation and traffic congestion app company Waze Ltd. for $1 Billion. Waze declined to respond on the subject.
Waze is the most popular navigation app for Smartphones, tablets, and vehicle systems, providing GPS navigation, crowdsourced-based updates about congestion, police, traffic cameras, accidents, and road hazards.
Waze said NO to Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) for a company value of $400 million, and NO to googles offer.
Waze will be Facebook’s third acquisition in Israel after having bought a mobile app company Snaptu for $70 million in 2011, and facial recognition company Face.com in 2012 for $60 million. In both cases, Facebook closed down in Israel and the senior executives were sent to work in California.
One major question is whether Waze will become a Facebook R&D center in Israel or whether, as in its previous acquisitions, the company would be closed down.
Founded in 2009, Waze raised $30 million in October 2012 from Li Ka-Shing’s Horizons Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and Ifund. The company has raised $67 million to date. Other investors include BlueRun Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, Microsoft Corporation (Nasdaq: MSFT), Magma Venture Partners, and Vertex Venture Capital.
The company has more than 34 million subscribers, and expects to reach 70 million by the end of the year.
For Facebook, Waze offers one more way of contacting friends when they are in cars by both text and voice, about their driving experience. Facebook will then be able to offer advertising to friends based on their driving patterns, even before they leave home, and not just based on content.
A link-up with Facebook could greatly improve Waze’s performance, as it is barely known outside Israel and the US. Exposure through Facebook could greatly boost Waze’s users database, which would enable the company to obtain a better picture of traffic conditions in different countries, and provide more detailed road maps.