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Thursday, April 22, 2021

SoftBank invests $2.8bn in robotics group AutoStore

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SoftBank has struck a $2.8bn deal for a 40 per cent stake in Norwegian warehouse automation firm AutoStore, within the newest addition to its internet of investments in ecommerce and robotics.

The Japanese group behind the world’s largest technology fund stated late on Monday that it’ll purchase the stake from US non-public fairness group Thomas H Lee Companions and Sweden’s EQT in a deal valuing AutoStore at $7.7bn.

The three shareholders could have illustration on AutoStore’s board, with Thomas H Lee remaining its majority shareholder.

“We view AutoStore as a foundational expertise that permits fast and cost-effective logistics for firms across the globe,” SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son stated in a press release.

Karl Johan Lier, chief govt of AutoStore, added that SoftBank’s backing would bolster its ambitions to develop within the Asia-Pacific area.

The funding comes as AutoStore is embroiled in a patent dispute with Ocado Group after the Norwegian firm final yr filed authorized claims in UK and US courts alleging that its British rival violated its robotic patents. Ocado has beforehand stated it was “not conscious of any infringement” of AutoStore’s rights.

Based in 1996, AutoStore is understood for “dice storage automation”, a expertise that permits robots to maximise cupboard space in warehouses.
It has 20,000 robots deployed throughout 35 international locations with a consumer base that features German conglomerate Siemens, Japan’s Panasonic and US electronics retailer Greatest Purchase.

SoftBank and its Imaginative and prescient Fund have invested aggressively in robotics expertise, with Son incessantly predicting that computer systems will surpass people in 30 years.

SoftBank invented a humanoid robotic known as Pepper and beforehand owned Boston Dynamics earlier than selling the US robotics group to South Korean carmaker Hyundai final yr.

The group’s focus has shifted from humanoid robots to warehouse automation and different applied sciences that may enhance the logistics provide chain for ecommerce teams corresponding to China’s Alibaba and South Korea’s Coupang.

In 2019, SoftBank invested in Berkshire Gray, a US warehouse robotics firm, whereas its Imaginative and prescient Fund has backed US logistics expertise agency Flock Freight and Indian logistics start-up Delhivery.

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