Back in June this year, we first heard the news that Vodafone was planning on buying Cobra Automotive Technologies for a whipping £115 million and it looks like the deal has gone relatively smoothly, as over the past week Vodafone has completed its acquisition, folding the organistion into its own, making Cobra a complete subsidiary of Vodafone Group PLC.
An Italian company, Cobra Automotive Technologies is a firm that designs and constructs geolocation equipment for vehicles, allowing for accurate placement for them using GPS hardware. It’s a smart business to be in, since Italy recently passed a law that made it mandatory for all new cars being produced in the country to come pre-fitted with telematic tracking equipment. Vodafone will of course now be able to take advantage of that lucrative business opportunity, whilst also expanding its own, more mobile orientated ambitions into the country.
Vodafone is also likely to be able to provide the sort of backing and experience necessary to expand Cobra’s own operations, making its products more versatile and useful, therefore more likely to be able to compete with all of the new telematics firms springing up as fleet managers, insurers and individual begin to see the benefit of having a piece of software keep an eye on your driving. Whether it’s for saving fuel, reducing vehicle wear, improving driver safety or simply making it possible to track down your vehicle if it’s stolen.
“Telematics is the largest and fastest growing segment of the automotive M2M value chain,” says Grant Hopkins, Director of Enterprise, Vodafone New Zealand (via Techday).
“This acquisition is all about delivering end to end connected car services to our customers. The combination of Vodafone and Cobra will create a new global provider of these services. We plan to invest in the business to offer our automotive and insurance customers a full range of telematics services.
“We will also be able to increase the breadth of services we can provide in other industry sectors.”
The acquisition of Cobra doesn’t seem to have had too much of an effect on Vodafone stock prices, which have remained relatively steady (hovering around 200 pence per) since the news broke in late June. Of course while ££112 million is a monstrous amount of money to you and me, Vodafone’s revenue streams being in upwards of £40 billion a year, so this is barely a drop in the bucket. It will however also be absorbing Cobra’s outstanding debt, which is said to be to the tune of 50 million euros.
It’s possible also, that with Vodafone’s push into Italy, it is looking to position itself to be ready and waiting to help interconnected and automated vehicles take off. With the mandatory inclusion of certain hardware in Italian vehicles, it may be one of the earliest countries to adopt automated vehicles en masse. While the UK is aiming to push the tech forward also, it will be interesting to see how the Italian politicians react to it in the near future.