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Thales Navigation Sells Magellan

San Dimas, Calif. — Thales Navigation, which markets the Magellan GPS brand, and which is a division of Thales, has been purchase by an investment group led by Shah Capital Partners for at least $170 million.

The new company will be known as Magellan.Henri Gaillard will remain CEO.

The purchase will help give Magellan more entrepreneurial freedom and allow it to respond to market trends more quickly, said Gerald Hwasta, operating partner of Shah Capital, noting that former owner Thales was a defense conglomerate.

“Seven to ten years ago, Thales was a good owner for the business as it sold more to professional markets,” said Hwasta.“As the GPS segment has evolved, there’s been incredible growth in the consumer devices.” Shah plans to “bring flexibility into the organization” and “put into place consumer electronics best practices,” said Hwang.

Private equity investors in the group include Tudor Group, Galleon Group, Consolidated Press Holdings, AIG Sun America and Eli Broad.

While NPD ranks Magellan as the third leading GPS brand in the US, with 14.2 percent of the market compared to Garmin’s 47.8 percent and TomTom’s 25.2 percent share (from March through May 2006 in sales to consumers), Magellan claims it is the number two brand with about 29 percent market share.It notes that NPD does not track sales in Radio Shack, Wal-Mart and warehouse clubs. “Some of our biggest accounts are those that NPD does not track,” said Gaillard.