Among the trends around ProMat 2023 was an increasing amount of strategic partnerships and consolidation among robotics providers. Berkshire Grey Inc. last week announced that it has entered into a definitive merger agreement with SoftBank Group Corp. and its affiliate. SoftBank has been an investor in Berkshire Grey since 2019.
“After a thoughtful review of value-creation opportunities available to Berkshire Grey, we are pleased to have reached this agreement with SoftBank, which we believe offers significant value to our stockholders,” said Tom Wagner, CEO of Berkshire Grey. “SoftBank is a great partner, and this merger will strengthen our ability to serve customers with our disruptive AI robotics technology as they seek to become more efficient in their operations and maintain a competitive edge.”
Bedford, Mass.-based Berkshire Grey said it combines robotics and artificial intelligence to automate fulfillment, supply chain, and logistics operations. The company claimed that its systems can “transform” picking, packing, movement, storage, and sorting operations to deliver competitive advantage for enterprises serving today’s connected consumers.
Founded in 2013, Berkshire Grey said its customers include Global 100 retailers and logistics service providers. It previously worked with SoftBank Robotics to build an automated e-commerce fulfillment center in Japan.
In 2021, Berkshire Grey said it planned to combine with Revolution Acceleration Acquisition Corp., a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC). Last year, Berkshire Grey entered a purchase and registration rights agreement with Lincoln Park Capital worth up to $75 million.
In January, Berkshire Grey partnered with Locus Robotics Corp. to offer cross-platform automation.
SoftBank supports robotics companies
Tokyo-based SoftBank Group includes an investment holding company that has stakes in robotics, AI, Internet of Things (IoT), telecommunications, Internet services, and clean energy technology providers. The company said it also includes the SoftBank Vision Funds and SoftBank Latin America Funds, which have invested more than $160 billion to help entrepreneurs transform industries and shape new ones.
“As a long-time partner and investor in Berkshire Grey, we have a shared vision for robotics and automation,” stated Vikas J. Parekh, managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers.
“Berkshire Grey is a pioneer in transformative, AI-enabled robotic technologies that address use cases in retail, e-commerce, grocery, 3PL [third-party logistics], and package-handling companies,” he said. “We look forward to partnering with Berkshire Grey to accelerate their growth and deliver ongoing excellence for customers.”
SoftBank Robotics makes service robots using BrainOS for commercial cleaning and disinfection. In 2020, the company sold its interest in Boston Dynamics to Hyundai Motor Group. In 2021, SoftBank acquired 40% of automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) provider AutoStore.
Earlier this month, SoftBank Robotics U.K. and Bunzl Distribution partnered to offer robotics in Spain.
Terms of Berkshire Grey acquisition
Under the agreement, SoftBank will acquire all of the outstanding capital stock of the company not currently owned by SoftBank for $1.40 per share in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $375 million.
The agreement, which has been unanimously approved by Berkshire Grey’s board of directors, represents a premium of approximately 24% to the closing stock price as of March 24, the last trading day before the date of this announcement.
Berkshire Grey, which began publicly trading its stock with the SPAC acquisition, was threatened with de-listing by the Nasdaq exchange. It will return to being a privately held company under SoftBank.
The transaction is not subject to a financing condition, but it is subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions, including the approval of Berkshire Grey’s stockholders and regulatory approvals. The companies said they expect the merger to close in the third quarter of 2023,