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April 6, 2021updated 15 Apr 2021 10:56am

SoftBank snaps up 40% slice of robo-warehouse firm AutoStore for $2.8bn

By Robert Scammell

Japanese conglomerate SoftBank has acquired a 40% stake in Autostore Systems, a robotics company that specialises in automated warehouse solutions, for a total of $2.8bn.

Founded in 1996, Norway-headquartered AutoStore provides robots and software for moving goods around a warehouse. It uses “cube-storage automation” to stack storage bins vertically in grids. Robots select bins from the top of the pile when needed, which according to AutoStore saves space and improves warehouse efficiency. More than 20,000 of its robots are deployed across 35 countries in sectors spanning grocery, industrial, healthcare and retail.

The announced deal gives AutoStore a total valuation of $7.7bn. SoftBank acquired the stake from private equity firms Thomas H.Lee Partners and EQT Private Equity, along with other shareholders. According to GlobalData’s market intelligence, Thomas H.Lee Partners acquired its shares in AutoStore from the EQT VII fund in 2019.

Masayoshi Son, chairman and CEO of SoftBank Group Corp. said: “We view AutoStore as a foundational technology that enables rapid and cost-effective logistics for companies around the globe. We look forward to working with AutoStore to aggressively expand across end markets and geographies.”

Karl Johan Lier, president and CEO of AutoStore, said SoftBank’s support would help with its “vision for growth in Asia-Pacific”.

The move comes amid an ecommerce boom propelled by the pandemic’s stay-at-home restrictions, with technology becoming a key component in logistics operations.

AutoStore competes with the likes of Ocado in the automated warehouse technology market. Ocado is currently suing AutoStore in Germany for alleged patent infringement, the latest in a string of disputes between the two companies stretching back nearly a decade.