German Auto Supplier Hella Weighs Software Unit Sale

German automotive supplier Hella GmbH is planning a sale of its driver-assistance software unit, people familiar with the matter said.

Hella is working with advisers to gauge interest in the business, according to the people. It could fetch several hundred million euros, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private.

The unit may attract interest from automotive suppliers, carmakers investing in autonomous driving and technology companies, the people said. No final decisions have been made, and there’s no certainty the deliberations will lead to a transaction, according to the people.

A representative for Hella didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Shares of Hella have fallen 16% in Frankfurt trading this year, giving the company a market value of about 4.6 billion euros. The benchmark DAX Index dropped 1.6% over the same period.

Technology Investments

The company’s Hella Aglaia Mobile Vision GmbH unit makes embedded software systems used for assisted driving functions -- which aid a human behind the wheel -- as well as self-driving cars. Its image-processing programs can detect oncoming vehicles, recognize traffic signs as well as lane markers and sense other objects around a car.

Unlike products from larger competitors like Mobileye NV, which sell integrated solutions with hardware and software packaged together, Aglaia’s software is designed to be paired with chips, cameras and sensors made by other vendors.

Volkswagen AG announced last year it would cooperate with Ford Motor Co. on electric and self-driving car technology. VW said in June it completed its investment in Ford’s autonomous-car partner Argo AI LLC, contributing $1 billion of cash and folding its $1.6 billion Autonomous Intelligent Driving unit into the business.

Slumping Market

In a similar move, Hyundai Motor Group and Aptiv Plc created a joint venture dubbed Motional Inc. to develop driverless systems for robotaxi network operators.

Hella’s potential divestment comes as automotive suppliers navigate a slumping market due to the coronavirus. The company said on July 28 it will cut 900 jobs at its headquarters by the end of 2023 amid a “hard market decline” during the pandemic. It targets between 5.6 billion euros and 6.1 billion euros in sales in the current financial year.

The storied manufacturer, which has roots dating back to 1899, produces lighting and electronic components for cars, construction machinery and boats. It also operates a range of cooperation projects with peers including Faurecia SA, Plastic Omnium SA and TMD Friction.

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