Alessandro Di Ciommo | NurPhoto | Getty Images
LONDON – Japanese technology conglomerate SoftBank has acquired 40% of Norwegian warehouse automation company AutoStore for $ 2.8 billion.
The news was first reported on Monday by the Wall Street Journal and later confirmed by AutoStore in an update to its website.
The deal values AutoStore, which was founded in 1996, at $ 7.7 billion.
SoftBank, which has made a number of investments in e-commerce and robotics over the past few years, is buying stakes 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 affordable logistics for companies around the world,” said Masayoshi Son, CEO and founder of SoftBank, in a statement.
He added, “We look forward to working with AutoStore to aggressively expand across end markets and regions.”
AutoStore was founded by Ingvar Hognaland and is headquartered in a village near Bergen called Nedre Vats. The AutoStore has developed what is known as “Cube Storage Automation”, with which robots can maximize storage space in warehouses.
It is said to have deployed 20,000 of its robots in 600 locations in 35 countries and that its technology enables customers to either store four times the inventory in the same space or all of their existing inventory in 25% of the space. AutoStore customers include the US 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.
The son of SoftBank believes that machines will outsmart people in the next 30 years.
Through the SoftBank Vision Fund, the billionaire has pumped huge amounts of capital into companies like Arm, Improbable and Brain Corp to ensure SoftBank has a financial stake in companies working on next-generation technologies.
SoftBank has also acquired stakes in several logistics companies that can improve supply chains for e-commerce giants like Alibaba, in which SoftBank is also involved.
For example, SoftBank supported the US warehouse robotics group Berkshire Gray in 2019. The logistics automation systems provider announced in February that it would go public through a merger with blank check company Revolution Acceleration Acquisition Corp, valuation of the combined company at $ 2.7 billion.
Nathan Benaich, a venture capital investor focused on artificial intelligence, told CNBC that the pandemic was clearly a “boon” for warehouse logistics and fulfillment companies as they are the “backbone of online commerce”.
“AutoStore, among peers like Berkshire Gray, Ocado Robotics and 6 River Systems, have been successful overnight robotics businesses for nearly 10 to 20 years,” he said. “They have quietly expanded their skills and inventory needs during this time and are now aggressively grasping today’s increasing customer demand.”