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The Norwegian company Autostore is a robot system for large warehouses, which is used by everything from Komplett to the Russian central bank.
The last time the company was traded was when the American fund Thomas H. Lee Partner paid NOK 16 billion when it bought large parts of Autostore from Swedish EQT in 2019. In other words, the value of the company has risen by more than NOK 50 billion.
Softbank now buys shares both from EQT and from American Thomas H. Lee Partner (THL Partner) and becomes the second largest owner.
– We are very happy with that. They are known as an active owner. They invest heavily in robotics, artificial intelligence and are well suited for a company like us. They have a lot to contribute to generate further growth, says CEO of Autostore, Karl Johan Lier.
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According to him, it was Softbank who got in touch a few months ago after hearing about the company at an investor presentation. Since then, the owners have met, over the video services Teams and Zoom. Softbank’s founder and CEO Masayoshi Son has himself attended the meetings.
The meetings have resulted in Softbank now buying 40 percent of the shares in Autostore. The agreement values the logistics company from Nedre Vats in Rogaland at NOK 65.5 billion.
– The price reflects market developments. The market pays very well for growth stocks with good profitability and cash flow. We believe it is a good price and a right price that reflects the potential of the company, says Lier.
Softbank is the world’s largest investor in start-up companies, and sits on the world’s largest money bag for technology-oriented risk investments in the form of their “Vision Fund” I and II, which together have well over $ 100 billion under management.
Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son comments on the acquisition in a press release:
– We see Autostore as a basic technology that provides fast and cost-effective logistics for companies all over the world. We look forward to working with Autostore and to expanding offensively across countries and markets.
Will grow in Asia
Today, Autostore is big in Europe and the United States. With Softbank on the ownership side, the company envisages gaining more attention in Asia.
– They have lots of companies in e-commerce that can suit us well, says Lier, and continues:
– We are very clear that we will expand in terms of where we will take our growth.
One of the areas in which the company invests is what is called “micro-fulfillment”, including in food. It aims to make distribution even more seamless.
– E-commerce has been run with large distribution centers in the regions that drive the goods into urban centers. With micro-fulfillment, the distribution centers are moved closer to the customer. There are smaller centers that cover a wide area. Then you need very space-efficient solutions and there we have a unique position, says Lier.
Norway’s first «unicorn»
When the company Autostore was sold for NOK 16 billion in 2019, it was the first time a Norwegian privately owned entrepreneurial company was sold for more than one billion dollars – the definition of a “unicorn”.
The acquisition fund EQT, which originates from the Wallenberg-controlled conglomerate Investor AB in Sweden, became the main owner in 2016. Three years later, it was sold to the American fund THL Partners.
The company’s history is 25 years. Series founder Jakob Hatteland from Åmsosen financed Autostore for the first few years. The idea came from the handyman Ingvar Hognaland who had a plan to streamline how the traditional warehouse system works.
The solution is based on cubes where robots pick up boxes of goods that can be packed and sent out over several floors. The customer list includes giants such as DHL, Best Buy, Puma, Walmart and Gucci.
Jakob Hatteland has earned more than four billion kroner at Autostore.
Autostore, which has experienced great success with its automated warehousing solutions, has sued the internet giant Ocado and believes they are making illegal interventions in Autostore’s patents in both the UK and the US.
Autostore believes that Ocado’s cooperation agreements with grocery chains such as Kroger in the USA, Marks & Spencer and Morrisons in the UK are based on its patents.
Vestlandsselskapet demands financial compensation in the billions.
“AutoStore demands lawsuits that prevent Ocado and its partner, Tharsus Group (from Blyth, UK), from producing, importing, using and selling technology that infringes AutoStore’s patents,” the company wrote in connection with the publication of the lawsuit last fall.
Nose for start-up companies
Softbank’s founder and CEO Masayoshi Son is known for taking a high risk, and having a nose for start-up companies that have the potential to grow rapidly. The $ 20 million Alibaba investment over 20 years ago has gone down in history as one of the most lucrative.
The company acquired Norwegian Kahoot last autumn and has increased its ownership position. The Japanese company has extensive experience with international IPOs.
Softbank was left with a gain of NOK 140 billion after the listing of the South Korean e-commerce company Coupang in the USA.
Softbank Group fell 0.6 percent on the Tokyo Stock Exchange on Tuesday. The share price has risen from 4000 yen in April last year to 9935 yen.
Autostore had a turnover of NOK 1.7 billion in 2019 – a growth of 45 percent from 2018. Ordinary profit before tax came to NOK 749.1 million. This is almost NOK 200 million more than in 2018.(Terms)Copyright Dagens Næringsliv AS and / or our suppliers. We would like you to share our cases using a link, which leads directly to our pages. Copying or other form of use of all or part of the content, can only take place with written permission or as permitted by law. For further terms see here.
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