Hyundai to acquire SoftBank’s robotics firm

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Image credit: Boston Dynamics
Image credit: Boston Dynamics

Hyundai Motor Group, in collaboration with its associated companies, says it will acquire a controlling interest in Boston Dynamics in a deal that values the US robotics firm at $1.1 billion.

SoftBank-owned Boston Dynamics develops agile, mobile robots that have been integrated into various business operations, and is best known for the development of the BigDog, Spot, Atlas and Handle robots.

According to a statement, under the agreement, Hyundai will hold an approximately 80% stake in Boston Dynamics, and SoftBank, through one of its affiliates, will retain an approximately 20% stake in the robotics firm.

Hyundai Motor Group’s affiliates – Hyundai Motor, Hyundai Mobis and Hyundai Glovis – and Hyundai Motor Group chairman Euisun Chung participated in the acquisition’s main terms of agreement. The financial terms were not disclosed.

Hyundai says, by establishing a strong presence in the field of robotics, the acquisition will mark another major step for the South Korean multinational vehicle manufacturer toward its strategic transformation into a smart mobility solution provider.

It envisions robotics technologies to lend synergies to new mobility solutions such as autonomous driving and urban air mobility, as well as smart factory platforms that it hopes to develop in the near future.

The other Hyundai Motor Group entities are expected to contribute their respective manufacturing, research and development and logistics capabilities to help generate a new robotics-focused value chain that is anticipated to create synergies with Boston Dynamics.

To propel this transformation, Hyundai says it has invested substantially in the development of future technologies, including in fields such as autonomous driving technology, connectivity, eco-friendly vehicles, smart factories, advanced materials, artificial intelligence and robots.

“We are delighted to have Boston Dynamics, a world leader in mobile robots, join the Hyundai team,” says Chung.

“This transaction will unite the capabilities of Hyundai Motor Group and Boston Dynamics to spearhead innovation in future mobility. The synergies created by our union offer exciting new pathways for our companies to realise our goal – providing free and safe movement and higher plane of life experiences for humanity.

“We will also contribute to society by enhancing its safety, security and public health amid global trends of an aging society and digital transformation.”

Hyundai Motor Group operates in the automobile, steel, construction, machine tools, logistics and other industries. The company has more than 16 000 employees working in 40 facilities across 10 states, including its $1.8 billion auto manufacturing plant in Alabama, and is also a well-established investor, manufacturer and innovator in the US.

Boston Dynamics produces mobile robots with mobility, dexterity and intelligence, enabling automation in difficult, dangerous or unstructured environments. The robotics company launched sales of its first commercial robot, Spot, in June and has since sold hundreds of robots in a variety of industries, such as power utilities, construction, manufacturing, oil and gas, and mining.

The investment in Boston Dynamics, according to Hyundai, furthers Hyundai's portfolio of technology that addresses opportunities for both service and logistics robots.

Hyundai says over time, it plans to expand its presence into the humanoid robot market with the aim of developing humanoid robots for sophisticated services such as caregiving for patients at hospitals.

“We and Hyundai share a view of the transformational power of mobility and look forward to working together to accelerate our plans to enable the world with cutting-edge automation, and to continue to solve the world’s hardest robotics challenges for our customers,” says Robert Playter, CEO of Boston Dynamics.

Masayoshi Son, representative director, corporate officer, chairman and CEO of SoftBank Group, comments: “Boston Dynamics is at the heart of smart robotics. We are thrilled to partner with Hyundai, one of the world’s leading global mobility companies, to accelerate the company’s path to commercialisation. Boston Dynamics has a very bright future and we remain invested in the company’s success.”

The transaction, subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions, is expected to close by June 2021.

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