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Hyundai Motor Group acquires US robotics firm

South Korea’s leading automaker takes step to transform into smart mobility solution provider with Boston Dynamics buy

Boston Dynamics’ four-legged robot Spot (Hyundai Motor Group)
Boston Dynamics’ four-legged robot Spot (Hyundai Motor Group)

Hyundai Motor Group is taking the first major step toward transforming into a smart mobility solution provider, acquiring the world’s leading robotics firm, Boston Dynamics.

The Korean conglomerate announced late Friday its agreement with SoftBank to acquire a controlling interest in the mobile robot firm, valued at $1.1 billion.

Under the agreement, three Hyundai Motor companies and group Chairman Chung Euisun will together hold 80 percent of the firm’s shares, while SoftBank retains the remaining 20 percent through one of its affiliates.

The three Hyundai companies are Hyundai Motor, Hyundai Mobis and Hyundai Glovis, which are set to acquire 30 percent, 20 percent and 10 percent of the shares, respectively. Chairman Chung Euisun’s stake is 20 percent, the automaker said.

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

The equity purchase is the first major deal by Hyundai Motor Group after Chung took the helm from his father, Chung Mong-koo, and reflects his earlier vows to transform the automobile manufacturer into a mobility solutions provider. 

Hyundai Motor Group logo (Hyundai Motor Group)
Hyundai Motor Group logo (Hyundai Motor Group)
Boston Dynamics logo (Hyundai Motor Group)
Boston Dynamics logo (Hyundai Motor Group)

According to Hyundai, Boston Dynamics is an established leader in developing agile, mobile robots that have been successfully integrated into various business operations, such as power utilities, construction, and manufacturing. The company launched sales of its first commercial robot Spot in June.

Hyundai, as a global automotive company, will contribute as a strategic partner to Boston Dynamics, sharing its in-house manufacturing capability and global network in the market, the company said.

“We are delighted to have Boston Dynamics, a world leader in mobile robots, join the Hyundai team. This transaction will unite capabilities of Hyundai Motor Group and Boston Dynamics to spearhead innovation in future mobility,” Chung said.

“The synergies created by our union offer exciting new pathways for our companies to realize our goal -- providing free and safe movement and higher plane of life experiences for humanity.”

SoftBank Group Chairman Masayoshi Son, also known as Son Jeong-ui, welcomed the deal.

“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 commercialization. Boston Dynamics has a very bright future and we remain invested in the company’s success,” Son said.

In pursuit of future mobility technologies, Hyundai said it has invested substantially in the fields of autonomous driving, connectivity, eco-friendly vehicles, artificial intelligence and robots.

Among them, the robotics market has potential for significant growth in the future, the automaker said.

The global robotics market, which was worth $24.5 billion in 2017, is expected to record $44.4 billion this year, posting an annual growth rate of 22 percent, according to Hyundai.

The market will continue to grow under the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic, to be worth $177.2 billion by 2025 with an average annual growth rate of 32 percent, Hyundai added.

Over time, the company said it plans to expand its presence into the humanoid robotics market, with the aim of developing humanoid robots for sophisticated services such as caregiving for patients at hospitals.

In addition, the automaker said it also envisions robotics technology lending synergies to new mobility solutions, including autonomous driving and urban air mobility, as well as smart factory platforms.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)
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