SoftBank Group Corp. agreed to pay $ 2.8 billion for a 40% stake in Norwegian warehouse automation company AutoStore, marking yet another major bet by the Japanese conglomerate on robot-enabled technology.
AutoStore is controlled by Thomas H. Lee Partners LP, while another private equity company, Sveriges EQT AB, owns a minority stake. The deal values the company at $ 7.7 billion including debt, the companies said Monday.
The Wall Street Journal reported that such an agreement was imminent earlier Monday.
SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son has been investing heavily in artificial intelligence and Internet-connected devices for years and famously predicted in 201
SOFTBANK BACKET COMPASS RAISES $ 450 MILLION IN DOWNZIZED IPO
AutoStore’s technology allows warehouses to be run almost exclusively by robots. The company was founded in 1996 and was a pioneer in a system for close storage and access to goods that is very common today.
It employs giant cubes filled with trash cans. Robots, but not humans, can travel over the top of the cubes, dig out boxes and deliver them to stations where workers collect orders. It is especially useful in smaller warehouses that are spreading in a race to speed up delivery of goods to urban consumers.
The company, which expects to make a profit in 2021, has benefited as manufacturers embrace technology as a way to reduce costs and when e-commerce affects more parts of everyday life – whether it’s clothing, groceries or household items. AutoStore’s customers include John Deere, Gucci and Texas Instruments Inc., according to the company’s website.
SoftBank has expanded its network of investments in global e-commerce and the related supply chain. It already has stakes in some of the world’s largest e-commerce companies, including China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and South Korea’s Coupang Inc.
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ABOUT FOX BUSINESS
Thomas H. Lee agreed to buy AutoStore from EQT in 2019, with EQT and other investors maintaining shares. EQT had acquired AutoStore in 2017.
Under the agreement, Thomas H. Lee would continue to be the majority shareholder and, together with SoftBank and EQT, have representation on the company’s board of directors.