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LONDON-The Japanese technology group SoftBank acquired a 40% stake in the Norwegian warehouse automation company AutoStore for US$2.8 billion.
The news was first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Monday, and was subsequently confirmed by AutoStore in an update on its website.
The deal valued AutoStore, which was established in 1
In the past few years, SoftBank has made a series of investments in e-commerce and robotics. SoftBank is buying shares from Thomas H Lee Partners, a US private equity group, and EQT, a Swedish venture capital firm.
SoftBank CEO and founder Masayoshi Son said in a statement: “We believe that AutoStore is a basic technology that provides fast and cost-effective logistics for global companies.”
He added: “We look forward to working with AutoStore to actively expand in terminal markets and regions.”
AutoStore was founded by Ingvar Hognaland and is headquartered in a village called Nedre Vats near Bergen. It has developed the so-called “Cube Storage Automation”, which allows robots to maximize the storage space in the warehouse.
It said that it has deployed 20,000 robots in 600 locations in 35 countries, and its technology allows customers to store four times as much inventory in the same space or store all existing inventory in 25% of the space. AutoStore’s customers include American electronics retailer Best Buy, Swedish Telecom Siemens and British grocery chain Asda.
AutoStore President and CEO Karl Johan Lier (Karl Johan Lier) said in a statement that SoftBank’s support will help SoftBank develop in the Asia-Pacific region.
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Softbank’s son believes that in the next 30 years, machines will surpass humans.
Through the SoftBank Vision Fund, the billionaire injected a large amount of capital into companies such as Arm, Improbable, and Brain Corp to ensure that SoftBank has a financial interest in companies engaged in next-generation technologies.
SoftBank has also snapped up shares in several logistics companies that can improve the supply chain of suppliers such as e-commerce giant Alibaba.
For example, SoftBank supported Berkshire Gray, a US warehouse robotics group, 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. The transaction valued the combined company at $2.7 billion. .
Nathan Benaich, a venture capital investor focused on artificial intelligence, told CNBC that the epidemic is clearly a “boon” for warehouse logistics and distribution companies because they are the “backbone of online commerce.”
He said: “Among its peers such as Berkshire Grey, Ocado Robotics and 6 River Systems, AutoStore has nearly 10 to 20 years of successful storage “overnight” in the robotics field. “During that time, they have been quietly building their capabilities and warehouse space, and are now actively capturing today’s surge in customer demand.”