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LONDON – Japanese technology conglomerate SoftBank has bought 40% of Norwegian stock automation company AutoStore for $ 2.8 billion.
The news was first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Monday and later confirmed by AutoStore in an update on its website.
The deal values AutoStore, which was incorporated in 1
SoftBank, which has made a number of investments in e-commerce and robotics over the past few years, is buying the stake from US private equity group Thomas H Lee Partners and Swedish venture capital firm EQT.
“We see AutoStore as a fundamental technology that enables fast and cost-effective logistics for companies across the globe,” said SoftBank CEO and founder Masayoshi Son in a statement.
He added: “We look forward to working with AutoStore to expand aggressively across end markets and geographic areas.”
AutoStore was founded by Ingvar Hognaland and is headquartered in a village near Bergen called Nedre Vats. AutoStore has developed what it calls “cube automation automation”, which allows robots to maximize storage space in warehouses.
It says it has deployed 20,000 of its robots at 600 locations in 35 countries, and that its technology allows customers to either store four times the inventory in the same room or their entire existing inventory in 25% of the room. AutoStore customers include, among others, the American electronics retailer Best Buy, the Swedish telecommunications company Siemens and the British grocery chain Asda.
Karl Johan Lier, President and CEO of AutoStore, said in a statement that SoftBank’s support will help it grow in the Asia-Pacific region.
Investment in the future
SoftBank’s son believes that machines will surpass humans for the next 30 years.
Through the SoftBank Vision Fund, the billionaire has pumped huge amounts of capital into companies such as Arm, Improbable and Brain Corp as part of an effort to ensure that SoftBank has a financial stake in companies working on next-generation technologies.
SoftBank has also snapped up shares in several logistics companies that could improve supply chains for e-commerce giants such as Alibaba, in which SoftBank also has a stake.
For example, SoftBank supported the US warehousing robot group Berkshire Gray in 2019. The logistics automation system provider announced in February that it would go public through a merger with the blank check company Revolution Acceleration Acquisition Corp in an agreement that estimates the total company at $ 2.7 billion. .
Nathan Benaich, a venture capitalist focusing on artificial intelligence, told CNBC that the pandemic has clearly been a “blessing” for warehousing logistics and fulfillment companies, as they are the “backbone of online trading.”
“AutoStore, among peers like Berkshire Gray, Ocado Robotics and 6 River Systems, is almost 10-20 years’ ‘overnight’ of successful robotics stores,” he said. “They have quietly built up their capabilities and warehouse footprint over that time and are now aggressively capturing today’s growing customer needs.”