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April 6, 2021, 3:57 p.m. EDT

SoftBank snaps up $2.8 billion stake in Norway robotics firm

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By Lina Saigol

Japanese investment giant SoftBank has agreed to pay $2.8 billion for a 40% stake in Norwegian warehouse automation company AutoStore.

SoftBank /zigman2/quotes/207137761/delayed SFTBY -0.50% will buy the stake from U.S. buyout group Thomas H. Lee Partners and Sweden’s EQT /zigman2/quotes/209305691/composite EQT +1.26% in a deal that values AutoStore at $7.7 billion, including debt, the two companies said in a statement late on Monday.

SoftBank /zigman2/quotes/207303954/delayed JP:9984 -6.51% and its Vision Fund investment portfolio have made a series of bets on robotics and artificial intelligence in recent years, which it believes will be key to driving innovation and business opportunities in sectors such as automated deliveries and driving.

Read: SoftBank bets on freight shipping technology

In December 2020, Softbank’s Vision Fund 2 led a $113.5 million in a funding round in San Diego-based logistics technology firm Flock Freight ,  which uses algorithms to match trucks with freight headed in the same direction.

More recently, SoftBank-backed robotics company Berkshire Grey agreed to go public through a merger with a blank-check firm — Revolution Acceleration Acquisition Corp /zigman2/quotes/224580752/composite RAAC -0.20% — in a deal that values the combined company at $2.7 billion, as the maker of logistics automation systems looks to take advantage of a surge in online shopping amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Founded in 1996, AutoStore is known for its “cube storage automation” — which allows robots to maximize storage space in warehouses. The company says it has deployed 20,000 robots across 35 countries. Its clients include German conglomerate Siemens /zigman2/quotes/205905025/delayed XE:SIE -3.13% , Japanese manufacturer Panasonic /zigman2/quotes/201785256/delayed JP:6752 -5.81% and U.S. electronics retailer Best Buy /zigman2/quotes/205918291/composite BBY +2.82% , according to its website.

AutoStore said its technology allows customers to expand storage capacity four times without moving, enabling e-commerce companies to deliver packages faster and more cheaply as online shopping has surged during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read: Home deliveries boost FedEx’s sales past $20 billion, profit nearly triples

“We view AutoStore as a foundational technology that enables rapid and cost-effective logistics for companies around the globe,” said Masayoshi Son, chairman and chief executive of SoftBank.

The two companies will work together to “aggressively expand across end markets and geographies,” he added.

Karl Johan Lier, chief executive of AutoStore, said the deal with SoftBank would help boost its growth in the Asia-Pacific region.

Following the SoftBank investment, Thomas H. Lee Partners will remain the majority shareholder in Autostore. The deal is expected to be completed this month.

Read: SoftBank posts $11.12 billion third-quarter profit

In a separate deal, SoftBank on Monday led an investment of $1.15 billion in genetic-testing company Invitae Corp /zigman2/quotes/203200150/composite NVTA -9.58% , as the Japanese conglomerate broadens its portfolio of biotech and life-sciences companies.

The investment in San Francisco-based Invitae, which was announced on Monday, was made through SoftBank’s asset management group, SB Management, which in February put $900 million into DNA sequencing company Pacific Biosciences of California.

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XE : Germany: Xetra
139.30
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/zigman2/quotes/203200150/composite
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P/E Ratio
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