SoftBank to Buy 40% Stake in AutoStore

$2.8B investment values the automated warehouse pioneer at $7.7B
Photograph courtesy of AutoStore

AutoStore’s majority owner said it would sell 40% of the robotic warehouse firm to SoftBank in a deal valuing the company at $7.7 billion.

AutoStore, based in Nedre Vats, Norway, is a pioneer of high-density automated good-to-picker systems in use in an increasing number of grocery e-commerce settings worldwide. SoftBank is acquiring its stake for $2.8 billion from Thomas H. Lee Partners (THL), which will continue to be AutoStore’s leading shareholder.

The investment will accelerate AutoStore’s rollout, particularly in the Asia Pacific region, investors and the company said, and comes as a barrage of U.S. grocers explore its systems to establish microfulfillment centers to meet growing e-commerce challenges.

“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,” said Masayoshi Son, chairman and CEO of SoftBank Group Corp. 

SoftBank Group is an investment holding company that includes stakes in telecommunications, internet services, AI, smart robotics, IoT and clean energy technology providers; the SoftBank Vision Funds, which are investing more than $100 billion to help extraordinary entrepreneurs transform industries and shape new ones; the $5 billion SoftBank Latin America Fund, the largest venture fund in that region; and the SB Opportunity Fund, a $100 million fund dedicated to investing in enterprises founded by entrepreneurs of color in the U.S.

“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,” said Karl Johan Lier, president and CEO of AutoStore. “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.”

THL, based in Boston, acquired AutoStore in 2019 for undisclosed terms and since established U.S. offices in New Hampshire. Its technology has been deployed by several grocery retailers as in-store or off-site fulfillment centers for including announced deals with HMart, H-E-B and Ahold Delhaize. These centers can reduce strain on stores and the supply chain while providing faster and fuller online orders, the company said.

AutoStore was founded by electronics-parts distributor in Norway in 1996 to solve its own warehousing challenges. Its technology is said to have inspired a similar solution at Ocado, which has grown into a significant European grocer now licensing its solution to Kroger; AutoStore and Ocado are currently entangled in multiple lawsuits with one another.

The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to be completed this month.


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