SoftBank Group Corp. agreed to pay $2.8 billion for a 40% stake in Norwegian warehouse-automation company AutoStore, marking another big bet by the Japanese conglomerate on robot-enabled technology.
AutoStore is controlled by Thomas H. Lee Partners LP, while another private-equity firm, Sweden’s EQT AB, holds a minority stake. The deal values the company at $7.7 billion including debt, the companies said Monday.
The Wall Street Journal reported such a deal was imminent earlier Monday.
SoftBank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son has been placing big bets on artificial intelligence and internet-connected devices for years, famously predicting in 2017 that super smart robots will outnumber humans within 30 years.
AutoStore’s technology makes it possible for warehouses to be operated almost entirely by robots. The company was founded in 1996 and pioneered a system of densely storing and accessing goods that is widely used today.