SoftBank realized a significant return on its investment in Boston Dynamics after agreeing to sell the U.S. robotics group to South Korean automaker Hyundai in a deal valued at $ 1.1 billion.
Under the deal announced on Friday, Hyundai and its chairman Euisun Chung will own an 80% stake in the maker of robots, including the bipedal Atlas and the four-legged Spot. SoftBank will retain a 20% interest through a subsidiary.
Google bought Boston Dynamics, a pioneer in mechanical robotics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in late 2013 and later sold it to SoftBank in 2017.
At the time, SoftBank agreed to buy Boston Dynamics as well as Japanese robotics group Schaft in a deal valued at more than $ 100 million. It will receive $ 574 million from the sale to Hyundai, according to a person familiar with the transaction.
The acquisition of Boston Dynamics by SoftBank was initially retained through a review by the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States. Ultimately, the deal ruled out the acquisition of Schaft, which won an advanced robotics challenge sponsored by US defense technology agency Darpa in late 2013. Google subsequently closed the Schaft division.
The deal comes as Hyundai is expanding its footprint in robotics, as part of a transition to a wider range of mobility services. Mr. Chung is committed to reducing the company’s reliance on traditional automobile manufacturing and developing growth drivers, including robotics and urban air mobility.
Hyundai plans to reduce the share of its revenue from car manufacturing to 50%, with robotics and urban air mobility accounting for 20% and 30% respectively.
In a statement, the company said it sees growth potential for logistics robots used in warehouses and factories, as well as service robots that can be used by people with disabilities or the elderly.
“This transaction will bring together the capabilities of Hyundai Motor Group and Boston Dynamics to spearhead innovation in future mobility,” said Mr. Chung.
This is the first large-scale acquisition since Mr. Chung became president of the company in October. It is also the company’s biggest investment since investing $ 2 billion in a joint venture with Dublin-based automotive technology group Aptiv to develop driverless cars.
Hyundai, which had been criticized for years for being sluggish in pursuing new technologies, sharply increased its investment in new sectors under Mr Chung’s leadership after promising to reinvent the company as a mobility service provider. .
Last year, the automaker announced a $ 35 billion investment plan to shift from traditional auto manufacturing to industries such as electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cells and driverless cars over the next five years. years. In January, Hyundai announced that it had partnered with Uber and would spend $ 1.5 billion to develop flying taxis.
Hyundai shares fell 1.6% on Friday, while SoftBank shares fell 4.7%.