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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.
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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.