Listen to this article
AutoStore, a leading global robotics and software company, today announced that SoftBank has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire 40% of AutoStore from funds affiliated with Thomas H. Lee Partners, L.P. (“THL”) and EQT Private Equity (“EQT”), among other shareholders. THL will continue to be AutoStore’s majority shareholder and THL, SoftBank and EQT will each have representatives on AutoStore’s Board of Directors.
AutoStore currently has a global blue-chip customer base with more than 600 installations and 20,000 robots across 35 countries. Its automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS), coupled with its proprietary software, provide customers with high throughput, enhanced configurability and high levels of flexibility to serve the increasing demands of today’s supply chains.
AutoStore’s cubic design allows customers to either store four times the inventory in the same space, or all of their existing inventory in 25% of the space. AutoStore’s solutions thus “redefine space,” enabling it to serve a range of markets as diverse as e-commerce, grocery, industrial, and healthcare in any warehouse, retail location or other facility.
Masayoshi Son, Chairman & 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.”
Softbank invested in another warehouse automation company in January 2020, participating in Berkshire Grey’s $263 million Series B. Berkshire Grey announced in February 2021 that it is going public via a merger with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Revolution Acceleration Acquisition Corp (RAAC). The deal valued the combined company at $2.7 billion.
Karl Johan Lier, President & CEO of AutoStore, said: “We are delighted for SoftBank to join the AutoStore team as we continue on our journey to automate all commerce and deliver best-in-class automation solutions to our customers. Our world-class investor group brings exceptional experience from multiple geographies, and we are thrilled to have SoftBank’s leadership and support on a global scale, but particularly with our vision for growth in Asia-Pacific.”
Jim Carlisle, AutoStore’s Chairman of the Board and Managing Director at THL, and Mike Kaczmarek, Managing Director at THL, said: “We believe the SoftBank partnership, in support of Karl Johan and the fantastic team at AutoStore, will help accelerate growth and unlock AutoStore’s massive potential. We are thrilled to welcome SoftBank as our new partner and are very excited for what the future holds for AutoStore.”
The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to be completed this month, in April 2021. The acquisition also appears to be a retooling of Softbank’s robotics portfolio, after it divested from Boston Dynamics late in 2020.
AutoStore, which recently opened an innovation hub in Norway, is involved with a patent infringement lawsuit with online grocery retailer and technology company Ocado. AutoStore sued Ocado in October 2020 alleging Ocado infringed on five patents related to its AS/RS system. Ocado fired back a couple of weeks ago, suing AutoStore Technology AS in Germany.