SoftBank to take 40% stake in warehouse robotics firm AutoStore for $2.8 billion

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FILE PHOTO: The logo of SoftBank Group Corp is displayed at SoftBank World 2017 conference in Tokyo

(Reuters) -SoftBank Group Corp has agreed to buy a 40% stake in AutoStore for $2.8 billion, the Norway-based robotics firm said on Monday, in yet another big investment by the conglomerate in warehouse automation technology that optimizes e-commerce operations.

The Japanese company will acquire the stake from funds affiliated with AutoStore's majority shareholder Thomas H. Lee (THL) Partners and other investors including EQT Private Equity, valuing the firm at $7.7 billion.

Founded in 1996, AutoStore has 20,000 robots deployed across 35 countries and counts Puma, Best Buy and Siemens among its customers. The company also touts a design method that allows customers to store four times the inventory in the same space in a warehouse.

Such technology enables e-commerce companies to deliver packages faster and more economically, as online shopping has surged during the COVID-19 pandemic.

SoftBank in January last year took part in a $263 million funding round in Berkshire Grey, which develops artificial intelligence-based logistics automation systems used by its customers - Walmart Inc, Target Corp and FedEx Corp - in their warehouses and distribution centers.

(Reporting by Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M.)