TOKYO—SoftBank Robotics Europe says it will acquire a minority stake in the United Robotics Group, a German distributor of service robots. SoftBank, which makes Pepper humanoid and Nao robots, will also revert to its original name, Aldebaran.
The transaction is subject to merger clearance and expected to close in the second quarter of 2022. Financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed, although the deal was first reported to be in the works back in October 2021.
United has been the master distributor of Nao and Pepper in Europe since October 2021, responsible for sales, service and maintenance. It also distributes the Pudu service robot, Boston Dynamics’ Spot quadruped, the Sawyer collaborative robot arm and other robots. United is backed by Hahn, a major industrial automation player in Germany. Hahn acquired the IP for Rethink Robotics after the company shut down in 2018. Hahn has since relaunched Sawyer.
“We are pleased to welcome SBRE with more than 180 exceptionally motivated robotics specialists,” says Thomas Hähn, founder and CEO of United Robotics Group. “This is an important step for us on the way to further internationalizing our company. The future Aldebaran's strong reputation in the market will help us to further expand our great potential in combining interaction robotics with our knowledge in collaborative industrial robotics.”
"We are strengthening our strategic partnerships with various robotics leader companies around the world," says Fumihide Tomizawa, president and CEO of SoftBank Robotics. "We are very pleased to form a strong partnership with a successful company (URG), and will leverage this great relationship to develop and market Pepper and a variety of other robots.”
Softbank stopped production of Pepper in 2020 and has fewer than 2,000 units left. However, sales of refurbished units will continue.