2016 was a banner year for acquisitions of companies involved in robotics and automation: 50 sold; 11 for amounts over $500 million; five were over a billion. 30 of the 50 companies disclosed transaction amounts which totaled up to a colossal $18.867 billion!
UPDATED 1-31-17: Our December story about the acquisition of Liquid Robotics by Boeing didn’t have any financial details but a flurry of leaks and rumors suggest that Boeing paid $300 million for LR. Both companies said they won’t comment but the amount has been updated in the Liquid Robotics entry below.
UPDATED 2-9-17: Adds the acquisition of Redbird by Airware.
UPDATED 2-27-17: Adds the acquisition of Erle Robotics by Acutron.
Chinese money was involved in over 47% of those acquisitions. Kuka by Midea, Dematic by Kion, KraussMaffei by ChemChina, Paslin by Wenfang, Gimatic by Agic Capital, Ecoclean by SBS Group to name the top ones.
The List of Acquisitions with transaction amounts (31)
|KUKA AG||Midea Group||$5,110.0||In a complex stock play over the course of many months, Chinese consumer products manufacturer Midea Group acquired over 94% of the outstanding and privately held shares of KUKA AG, a Germany-based robot manufacturers and one of the Big Four of international robot makers. The approval process involved negotiations with the German and US governments, the selling off of KUKA Aero (which is involved in sensitive aerospace technologies) to AIT (see below), and an agreement regarding jobs and plants in Germany which will be protected until the end of 2023. Also Midea agreed not to pursue a domination agreement or de-listing of KUKA’s shares.|
|Dematic||Kion Group||2,100.0||The Kion Group, with funding from their Chinese partner, acquired Dematic Corp. for $2.1 billion. Kion’s biggest single shareholder is Chinese diesel-engine maker Weichai Power with a 38.3% stake. Kion has been on a tear acquiring all sorts of companies in the logistics sphere: Egemin, Linde, Retrotech and now Dematic.|
|Intelligrated||Honeywell||1,500.0||Honeywell's material handling solutions are somewhat old school, hence their need to strategically acquire newer technology. Intelligrated has been a successful integrator of mobile and stationary robotic solutions and systems for 20+ years for manufacturing, warehousing and distribution material handling and automated storage and retrieval. In recent years the company has posted double-digit year-over-year growth. Intelligrated brings a large IP portfolio of warehouse automation, order fulfillment and software solutions and has an extensive presence in North American e-commerce and the retail, and food and beverage markets.|
|Affymetrix||ThermoFisher||1,300.0||ThermoFisher Scientific acquired Affymetrix for $1.3 billion. Adding Affymetrix's products will help ThermoFisher expand its array of lab equipment and robots into biosciences and genetic analysis workflows.|
|InvenSense||TDK Corp||1,300.0||TDK Corporation acquired InvenSense, Inc. for $1.3 billion. InvenSense provides motion sensors, and is known for its six- and nine-axis motion sensors, which are used in some advanced consumer products and applications. Recently it has added inertial, environmental, microphone, and ultrasonic sensors to its product line.|
|KraussMaffei Automation||ChemChina||1,000.0||ChemChina and a group of other investors including Chinese state funds, acquired Germany’s KraussMaffei Automation, an industrial robot integrator and plastics, carbon fiber, and rubber processor, for $1 billion.|
|Arcam AB||GE||800.0||Arcam AB, based in Mölndal, Sweden, was acquired by GE. Arcam invented an electron beam melting machine for metal-based additive manufacturing, and also produces advanced metal powders. Its customers are in the aerospace and healthcare industries. Arcam generated $68 million in revenues in 2015 with approximately 285 employees.|
|E2V||Teledyne Technologies||780.0||Teledyne Technologies, which specializes in deepwater gas and oil exploration and production, oceanographic research, air and water quality environmental monitoring, electronics design and development, factory automation and medical imaging, acquired British imaging sensor maker E2V Technologies in an all cash $780 million transaction. E2V's imaging devices, machine vision cameras for sensitive, high speed inspection processes, industrial processing systems, and other sensors, enable a range of industrial robotic and automation systems to work more efficiently and for space science and astronomy applications.|
|Otto Motors||Uber||680.0||Otto Motors, a San Francisco startup developing self-driving truck system kits, was acquired by Uber for $680 million. The deal was worth about 0.9% of Uber. Also part of the deal, Otto gets 20% of any trucking business profits they end up creating. Anthony Levandowski, a former Google engineer and one of Otto’s founders, will take charge of Uber’s self-driving car operations as well as continuing to run Otto’s trucking business.|
|Cruise Automation||General Motors||600.0||General Motors acquired Cruise Automation, a startup that was developing autopilot systems for existing cars, for an undisclosed sum but, according to Fortune magazine, a figure “north of $1 billion.” This figure was later modified to $600 million. GM has stated their goal of creating the industry’s biggest driverless-vehicle fleet which is why GM paid such a steep purchase price for Cruise, invested $500 million into Lyft, and another $25 million to acquire the employees and technology left over from Sidecar, a ride-sharing service that shut down last December. Certainly these acquisitions are both a talent and a technology grab to help GM facilitate their fleet-vehicle goal.|
|SLM Solutions Group||GE||600.0||SLM Solutions Group, based in Lübeck, Germany, produces laser machines for metal-based 3D additive manufacturing with customers in the aerospace, energy, healthcare, and automotive industries. SLM generated $74 million in revenues in 2015 with 260 employees.|
|Movidius||Intel||400.0||Intel acquired Irish Movidius, a maker of image-processor chips for drones and virtual reality for $400 million. Movidius’ chips help drones and smartphones recognize faces and read signs without needing to stream to the cloud and wait for a response.|
|Voith GmbH||Triton Partners||342.0||Voith GmbH, a family-owned German group of industrial and engineering companies, has sold 80% of its industrial services unit to buyout group Triton Partners for $342 million to free up capital for planned investments. Voith also had a 25.1% share of Kuka's stock which it sold to Midea. According to Forbes, Voith ranks 200th in global family-owned businesses with revenue of $7.5 bn and 43,000 employees.|
|Paslin||Wanfeng||302.0||Paslin, a Warren, MI integrator of welding robots and manufacturer of automation tooling, was acquired by Chinese company Wanfeng Technology Group for $302 million. Paslin has developed and sold assembly and welding robot application systems 1937. Wanfeng, founded in 1994, has businesses in such fields as auto parts manufacturing, robots and intelligent equipment, magnesium alloy and financial investments, with annual sales of $3 billion.|
|Cabinplant A/S||CTB||300.0||Cabinplant A/S, a Danish integrator of food processing equipment including a sardine packing robot cell, sold 80% of their shares to CTB, a Berkshire Hathaway (Warren Buffet) company that designs, manufactures and markets ag, dairy and poultry processing equipment. Cabinplant employs 300 people and has representatives in more than 30 countries worldwide. Based on 2015 sales of $43M (from their annual report), and presuming a 10X revenue, it seems likely the selling price was in the range of $200M to $400M.|
|Liquid Robotics||Boeing||300.0||Liquid Robotics sold their company to Boeing's Autonomous Systems for Defense, Space & Security division. Liquid Robotics' Wave Gliders have traveled over 1.2 million nautical miles for a variety of partners and clients and an even greater number of commercial, defense and scientific applications. Although press releases from both companies didn’t have any financial details, a flurry of leaks and rumors suggest that Boeing paid $300 million for LR.|
|Aesynt||Omnicell||275.0||Aesynt, a Pennsylvania company that produces and distributes hospital pharmacy dispensing robot systems, was acquired by Omnicell, a Silicon Valley medical device provider of advanced automation enabling health care facilities to acquire, manage, dispense, and deliver medications and supplies, for $275 million. In 2015 Omnicell acquired MTS Medication Technologies and MACH4 Automation, both manufacturing and marketing robotic pharmacy dispensing systems.|
|Point Grey Research||FLIR Systems||253.0||FLIR Systems, a big vision systems provider, acquired Point Grey Research, a developer of machine vision cameras for use in industrial, retail, scientific, traffic, mapping, and other advanced imaging applications, for approximately $253 million in cash.|
|Turi||Apple||200.0||Apple acquired Turi, a Seattle-based developer of a multi-purpose AI machine learning platform, for $200 million.|
|Westfalia Group||Horizon Global||186.0||DPE Deutsche Private Equity sold Westfalia Group, a German maker of towing equipment and integrator of robotic warehousing solutions, to Horizon Global Corp. for around $186 million including assumed debt. Westfalia, specializing in warehouse automation, designs, integrates and installs automated storage solutions for manufacturers and distributors in both conventional existing spaces and new-build facilities.|
|Gimatic||Agic Capital||150.0||Gimatic, an Italian gripper maker, was acquired by European-Asian equity fund Agic Capital for an undisclosed sum estimated by the Financial Times to be between $112-$169 million. Agic Capital was a participant in the purchase of Germany's KraussMaffei Group for $1 billion (see above).|
|Ecoclean Group||Shenyang Blue Silver Group||134.0||Shenyang Blue Silver Group (SBS Group), China, acquired 85% of the Ecoclean Group within the Dürr Group for around $134 million. The Ecoclean Group has annual sales of $224 million, 850 employees and 10 sites in 8 countries, and provides cleaning and surface processing systems – some of which are robotic – for industrial part manufacturers, mainly in the auto industry. Dürr is a provider of painting, sealing and handling robots for the global auto industry. Shenyang Blue Silver has 700 employees and $224 million in annual sales. One of their activities is as an integrator of industrial robots for material handling.|
|Prox Dynamics||FLIR Systems||134.0||Prox Dynamics, an Oslo, Norway, developer, manufacturer, and distributor of aerial sensors and UAS that are small and light for covert surveillance systems, was acquired by FLIR Systems for $134 million.|
|Medtech||Zimmer Biomet||132.0||Zimmer Biomet has entered the growing surgical robotics field with the purchase of France’s Medtech for an estimated $132 million. According to an SEC filing, Zimmer Biomet agreed to buy 1.4 million shares from founder Bertin Nahum and other stockholders at a price of $55 per share, as well as all outstanding convertible bonds and warrants previously issued by Medtech to private equity firm Ally Bridge Group. Medtech is a developer of robotic surgical platforms and the ROSA surgical robot.|
|Hansen Medical||Auris Surgical Robotics||80.0||Hansen Medical and Auris Surgical Robotics, both surgical robot providers, agreed to a merger whereby Auris acquired Hansen for $80 million. In addition, certain significant stockholders of Hansen Medical agreed to invest approximately $49 million into Auris upon the closing.|
|RoboRobo||Shengtong Printing||62.0||RoboRobo, a Korean educational robotics kit and course provider startup, was acquired by Shenzhen-based Shengtong Printing for $62 million in cash and stock. RoboRobo was set up in 2012 in Beijing as the general agent in China for South-Korean based educational robot courses. Now, it operates 16 schools in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Nanjing, and other cities.|
|iRobot Defense||Endeavor Robotics||45.0||iRobot sold off it's Defense Division for $45 million to Arlington Capital Partners, a government regulated sectors and verticals VC who set up Endeavor Robotics. The new standalone company will focus entirely on the needs of defense, public safety and security. Existing iRobot management and staff have moved over to the new company which will remain in Bedford, MA.|
|Retrotech||Egemin Automation||40.0||Retrotech was acquired by the Kion Group via it’s Egemin Automation subsidiary, for $40 million. Retrotech is a NY-based material handling integrator employing 140 people with annual sales of ~$70 million in 2015. Note that Kion acquired Egemin in 2015 for ~$82 million.|
|Jorgensen Engineering||Xano||35.0||Jorgensen Engineering, an Odense, Denmark integrator, has sold to Zano, a Swedish holding company (not to be confused with UK Torquing Group's Zano, which recently failed) for $35 million. Jorgensen had annual sales of $40 million. Jorgensen will be folded into Zano’s Industrial Solutions unit which supplies customer-specific automation solutions for the food and medical technology industries, in addition to packaging machines for beverage and other food packaging.|
|Interactive Motion Technologies||Bionik Labs||23.6||Bionik Labs, a Canadian provider of rehab solutions for individuals with neurological disorders, acquired all of the outstanding shares, assets and liabilities of Interactive Motion Technologies, a Watertown, MA provider of upper extremity rehab robotics for $23.65 million.|
|Drone Services USA||Howco||3.5||Howco, a provider of construction, transportation, mining and heavy equipment spare and replacement parts to customers worldwide, was acquired by Drone Services USA for $3.5 million to add an international and West Coast distribution capability and presence. Drone Services USA plans to continue acquiring companies to enable it to become a primary developer and manufacturer of low altitude unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and related technologies.|
Acquisitions where financial information wasn't disclosed (19)
|Aerial MOB||5D Robotics||5D Robotics, a San Diego area integrator of unmanned and mobile robotics using ultra-wide band (5D) communications, acquired Aerial MOB, a drone aerial cinematography startup. The acquisition has led to the formation of the 5D Aerial division which will provide 3D mapping, photogrammetry, thermal and multi-spectral imagery data to vertical markets including oil and gas, utilities and construction.|
|Ascending Technologies||Intel||Ascending Technologies, a German provider of autopilot systems, unmanned aircraft systems and multi-rotor technology for professional, civil and research applications, was acquired by Intel. At CES, Intel showed off Ascending's technology in a colorful video of 100 drones performing a light show in time with an orchestra playing a Beethoven Symphony. Intel gains expertise and technology (and 75 new employees) to accelerate the deployment of Intel RealSense technology into the fast growing drone market segment.|
|Bluefin Robotics||General Dynamics||Bluefin Robotics was acquired by the Mission Systems unit of General Dynamics. Bluefin is a Massachusetts-based developer of autonomous undersea robots used for mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance applications for the DoD.|
|Eagle Scout Imaging||Deveron UAS||Deveron UAS (previously Deveron Resources, a Canadian mineral exploration company) acquired Eagle Scout Imaging, an agricultural UAS data provider, for an undisclosed amount with the goal of renaming and rebranding Eagle Scout Imaging and Deveron Resources into Deveron UAS, a provider of aerial data to farmers.|
|Ergopedia||Pasco Scientific||Pasco Scientific, a provider of educational robots, acquired Ergopedia, the maker of the ErgoBot educational bot.|
|Erle Robotics||Acutronic Group||Erle Robotics, a Spanish startup making components for robots and drones, was acquired by Swiss Acutronic Group, a maker of multiple axes motion simulators.|
|Gatewing (a Trimble subsidiary)||Delair-Tech||Delair-Tech, a French UAS manufacturer, acquired Gatewing from Trimble and also signed a strategic alliance with both Trimble and Microdrones, a German UAS maker, to be Trimbles preferred providers for UAS solutions. 100+ Gatewing employees are involved in the transaction.|
|Grohmann Engineering||Tesla||Tesla acquired Germany’s Grohmann Engineering, an integrator of factory systems technology including robotics. Tesla will turn Grohmann into a new subdivision dedicated to helping Tesla increase the automation and effectiveness of its manufacturing process. Although no disclosure was made regarding how or how much was paid, Grohmann’s 2015 revenue was $125 million and they employ around 800 people in facilities in Germany, the US and China.|
|Hocomo||DIH International||Hocomo, a Swiss provider of robotic and sensor-based rehabilitation solutions, merged with Chinese DIH International to provide comprehensive rehab solutions. DIH International is a corporate holding group from Hong Kong with offices in China, Korea, the Netherlands and the US.|
|Jaybridge Robotics||Toyota||In a move similar to the 2015 deal where Uber hired almost the complete staff of CMU's NREC, Toyota hired the entire 16-member software engineering staff of Jaybridge Robotics, the company providing software automation of industrial vehicles across a range of industrial applications including agriculture, mining, marine, and rail. Jaybridge-engineered autonomous systems have logged thousands of hours in the hands of end-users. Jaybridge Robotics, Inc. remains an independent company and will continue to provide support for existing clients.|
|KUKA Aero||AIT||Advanced Integration Technology (AIT) acquired KUKA Systems Aerospace North America (KUKA Aero), in a carve-out transaction to comply with U.S. regulators who objected to KUKA's sale to Chinese consumer products manufacturer Midea. The KUKA Midea transaction was subsequently approved.|
|Maverick Technologies||Rockwell Automation||Rockwell Automation, an industrial automation and information conglomerate, acquired Maverick Technologies, a large American integrator of industrial robots.|
|Mikrotron||Ambienta SGR||Mikrotron, a German provider of image processing systems used for designing robotic and automated processes, R&D, QC and process control, was acquired by Ambienta SGR, an Italian VC focusing on industrial environmentally-friendly companies.|
|Moodstocks||Google bought French Moodstocks, a visual recognition machine learning technology company. Moodstocks' engineers and researchers have been developing new algorithms for visual recognition of objects, particularly those viewed by cameras in mobile devices.|
|NDC Automation||Dematic||Dematic, a global supplier of AGVs and materials handling technology, acquired NDC Automation, an AGV manufacturer in Australia and New Zealand. Dematic was later acquired by Kion Group (see above).|
|Power Automation Systems||Swisslog||Power Automation Systems, a California material handling AGV provider, was acquired by Swisslog, a KUKA Robotics company. In 2015, in a similar effort to strengthen its mobile material handling presence, Swisslog acquired Forte, a warehouse automation system integrator.|
|Redbird||Airware||Redbird, a French drone-powered analytics provider for construction and mining companies, sold to American Airware for an undisclosed amount. The acquisition allows Airware to concentrate on the insurance vertical where it helps State Farm and other customers with inspecting roofs, residential claims management, and commercial underwriting.|
|SVIA||ABB||SVIA, a Swedish integrator of machine-tending solutions and cells, was acquired by ABB for an undisclosed amount. The acquisition expands ABB’s machine tending portfolio with a wider variety of advanced and vision-integrated applications for industries including automotive, plastics and electronics, such as smart phone manufacturing.|
|Thrust UAV||PCS Edventures||PCS Edventures, a provider of STEM, robotic and UAS educational tools and programs, acquired the assets, IP and inventory of Thrust UAV, an Idaho startup, for $109,000. Shortly thereafter Thrust, a service provider with a racing drone, announced an $825,000 contract to provide their drones to a reseller.|
|Time Domain||5D Robotics||5D Robotics acquired Time Domain, a provider in Ultra-Wideband (UWB) product development and services, for an undisclosed amount. 5D has partnered with Time Domain since 2012, adapting the latter's PulsON® ranging radios into precision autonomous navigation and positioning solutions for a wide variety of air and ground vehicles. The transaction strengthens the combined entity's position in vehicle autonomy through a combination of products, intellectual property (over 100 patents), and a staff of over 50 people.|
|Tuplejump||Apple||Apple acquired India-based Tuplejump, a machine learning startup for an undisclosed amount. This is after an August acquisition of Turi, see above, another machine learning platform for, what Geekwire suggests as upwards of $200 million.|
Why all the acquisitions?
A push by some of the world’s largest corporations to find new avenues to expand in the face of anemic or problematic economic growth led to major acquisitions in areas adjacent to their core business.
“Companies are reinventing themselves, looking at their business in a new way with regards to how can they be a disrupter, and how they can prevent being disrupted – and this opens up deal flow” said Chris Ventresca, global co-head of M&A at JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Enrico Krog Iversen, who sold Danish Universal Robots to American Teradyne in 2015, when asked why his company didn't go public, said:
Exiting to a larger company will often make sense not only for financial reasons, but also for people reasons – opening up for new/more career opportunities. You will become part of something bigger and can instantly get access to additional resources. Naturally there are also some political considerations if you choose this path. You will probably get access to a very strong board who can help you develop the company faster.
An IPO may bring more money on paper, but it is a very restricted way to exit and it is also very bureaucratic to run a listed company. In our case, I preferred to have a good sum of money in the bank instead of a lot of money on paper. Also I did not personally fancy all the bureaucracy and politics that goes with being CEO of a listed company.