- AutoStore's shareholders have agreed to sell 40% of the company to Japanese investment firm SoftBank for $2.8 billion, the Norwegian warehouse-automation specialist announced on Monday.
- Thomas H. Lee Partners (THL), a Boston-based private equity firm, will remain AutoStore's majority shareholder after the completion of the transaction, which values AutoStore at $7.7 billion.
- SoftBank is slated to become a key minority shareholder in AutoStore as the robotics company ramps up its efforts to help retailers automate their fulfillment operations.
AutoStore, which has been busy signing deals with retailers looking to use the company's rolling robots to speed up their ability to handle e-commerce orders, said it plans to tap its alliance with SoftBank to help it grow its presence in the Asia-Pacific region.
SoftBank joins THL, which bought control of AutoStore in 2019, and Sweden-based EQT Private Equity, an existing minority shareholder in the robotics company, in holding seats on AutoStore's board of directors.
AutoStore has been gaining momentum in the United States over the past year, with retailers including H-E-B, The Giant Company and, most recently, H Mart announcing that they will use technology from the Scandinavian technology providers in micro-fulfillment centers (MFCs).
The company, which recently announced the opening of a testing center in Norway designed to simulate a variety of environmental conditions found in stores and warehouses, says it has 20,000 robots in operation at more than 600 locations across 35 countries.
AutoStore is raising its profile as U.K.-based rival Ocado works with Kroger on a fleet of large automated grocery warehouses across the United States. The first of those facilities, known as customer fulfillment centers, recently soft-launched in Ohio and is set to begin full operations this month.
AutoStore alleges that Ocado's technology violates its patent rights and last year took legal action in the United Kingdom and the United States in an effort to stop Ocado from manufacturing and selling equipment it says infringe on its intellectual property. Ocado responded by saying it was examining whether AutoStore violates its patents.
SoftBank's decision to invest in AutoStore continues a string of investments the Tokyo-based investment company has recently made in the retail technology space. In November, SoftBank joined other investors in providing $500 million in capital to autonomous delivery company Nuro, following a $940 million investment SoftBank made in Nuro in 2019.
In February, SoftBank led a group of investors that put $150 million into automated checkout company Standard Cognition. Weeks later, goPuff announced that SoftBank was part of a group that made a $1.15 billion investment in the company, which delivers convenience items from 250 dark stores across the U.S.