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Bridgestone polishes data analytics with $1bn Dutch acquisition

Biggest buy since 2007 lands TomTom Telematics as tire maker readies for IoT era

Bridgestone is looking to boost services amid changes facing the auto industry.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Bridgestone will purchase a unit of Dutch map services company TomTom for 910 million euros ($1.03 billion), its biggest acquisition in more than a decade, as the Japanese manufacturer seeks to gain insights into tire operating conditions and offer new services.

TomTom Telematics advises clients on safe driving and route selection by collecting data from equipment installed on vehicles, serving about 860,000 autos worldwide. The purchase will expand Bridgestone's reach in vehicle data as the company moves to develop and sell services that help tire customers like freight companies boost efficiency.

Key regional subsidiary Bridgestone Europe will buy the TomTom unit by the end of June under an agreement announced Tuesday. The deal marks Bridgestone's first acquisition of this scale since its 2007 purchase of American retread tire company Bandag.

Bridgestone offers services that use "internet of things" technology to notify mining equipment and commercial-vehicle customers of the optimal time to change tires. The company plans to enlarge its team of data scientists to 100 as early as this year.

Tokyo-based Bridgestone has long been the global leader in tires. It and Western competitors Michelin and Goodyear previously controlled more than half of the market but have since seen their combined share fall under 40%.

Bridgestone CEO Masaaki Tsuya has warned that there's no telling where tire technologies will end up a decade down the road. The once-in-a-century wave upending the auto industry is sweeping even the tire king.

Founded in 1991, TomTom offers map services in 140-plus countries. The company is shifting focus from mainstay car navigation systems toward high-resolution digital maps used in automated driving but faces tough competition there from such players as Google. With the unloading of the telematics unit, it plans to pour more resources into growth fields.

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