Robotic storage and fulfillment technology provider AutoStore gained a powerful new financial backer yesterday, announcing that the Japanese technology conglomerate SoftBank Group Corp. had paid $2.8 billion to buy a 40% stake in the company and plans to help the company “aggressively expand” into new markets.
SoftBank bought the shares from existing investors Thomas H. Lee Partners L.P. (THL), EQT Private Equity, and other shareholders. Despite the large size of the deal, private equity firm THL will continue to be AutoStore’s majority shareholder. And THL, SoftBank, and EQT will each have representatives on Norway-based AutoStore’s board of directors.
New investor Softbank also owns broad holdings in a variety of logistics technology firms, including stakes in the warehouse robotics and automation provider Berkshire Grey, robotics vendor Boston Dynamics, third-party logistics (3PL) provider ShipBob, artificial intelligence (AI) firm Brain Corp., technology vendor Simbe Robotics Inc., and autonomous mobile robot (AMR) vendor Fetch Robotics Inc.
“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,” Masayoshi Son, chairman & CEO of SoftBank, said in a release.
AutoStore says its automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) and software create a high-density cube of robotic inventory storage, allowing customers to either store four times the inventory in the same space, or pack all of their existing inventory in 25% of the space. The company says its customer base has with more than 600 installations and 20,000 robots across 35 countries.
The move comes just a week after AutoStore said it had teamed with systems integrator Bastian Solutions to provide an automated micro-fulfillment center (MFC) for the Asian-American specialty grocer H Mart. In that deal, AutoStore will support H Mart’s online grocery operations in Carlstadt, New Jersey. AutoStore will install its solution at the back of the store, enabling the retailer to reduce the average distance between the MFC and the customer, supporting both in-store pickup and rapid home delivery for a range of grocery packaged goods along with fresh and frozen items.
Although it reduced the size of its holding in AutoStore, THL remains bullish on logistics tech, with holdings that include the supply chain visibility platform FourKites, inventory automation provider Material Handling Systems Inc. (MHS), and the supply chain systems design and integration firm Fortna Inc.
We are pleased to announce @SoftBank_Group has invested $2.8 billion in AutoStore Systems, valuing our company at approximately $7.7 billion. This transaction reinforces our global leadership & will help accelerate growth and unlock our massive potential.https://t.co/NZjpEMVCMe— AutoStore (@AutoStoresystem) April 5, 2021