SoftBank invests $ 2.8 billion in robotics group AutoStore

SoftBank has reached a $ 2.8 billion deal for a 40% stake in Norwegian warehouse automation company AutoStore, in the latest addition to its network of e-commerce and robotics investments.

The Japanese group behind the largest technology fund in the world said Monday night it would buy the stake of U.S. private equity group Thomas H Lee Partners and Swedish EQT in a deal valuing AutoStore at $ 7.7 billion.

The three shareholders will be represented on AutoStore’s board of directors, with Thomas H Lee remaining its majority shareholder.

“We see AutoStore as a fundamental technology that enables fast and profitable logistics for businesses around the world,” SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son said in a statement.

Karl Johan Lier, CEO of AutoStore, added that SoftBank’s support would bolster its growth ambitions in the Asia-Pacific region.

The investment comes as AutoStore is involved in a patent litigation with Ocado Group after the Norwegian company last year filed lawsuits in UK and US courts alleging that its British rival had infringed its patents on robots. Ocado has previously stated that it is “not aware of any violation” of AutoStore’s rights.

Founded in 1996, AutoStore is known for “cube storage automation,” a technology that allows robots to maximize storage space in warehouses.
It has 20,000 robots deployed in 35 countries with a customer base that includes German conglomerate Siemens, Panasonic in Japan and US electronics retailer Best Buy.

SoftBank and its Vision Fund have invested heavily in robotic technology, Its frequently predicting that computers will overtake humans in 30 years.

SoftBank invented a humanoid robot called Pepper and previously owned Boston Dynamics before sale the US robotics group to South Korean automaker Hyundai last year.

The group’s focus has shifted from humanoid robots to warehouse automation and other technologies that can improve the logistics supply chain of e-commerce groups such as Alibaba in China and Coupang in South Korea.

In 2019, SoftBank invested at Berkshire Gray, an American warehouse robotics company, while its Vision fund supported American logistics technology company Flock Freight and Indian logistics start-up Delhivery.

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