SoftBank to buy robotics businesses from Alphabet Inc.

SoftBank to buy robotics businesses from Alphabet Inc.(AFP)
Updated 09 June 2017
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SoftBank to buy robotics businesses from Alphabet Inc.

TOKYO: SoftBank Group Corp. said it would buy two firms that build walking robots from Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., adding to the Japanese company’s growing artificial intelligence (AI) portfolio.
SoftBank said it would buy Boston Dynamics and Tokyo-based Schaft, which design and manufacture robots that simulate human movement but did not disclose the terms of the transactions.
Shares of the company rose as much as 7.9 percent after the deal was announced, hitting a 17-year high.
“Smart robotics are going to be a key driver of the next stage of the information revolution, and Marc (Raibert) and his team at Boston Dynamics are the clear technology leaders in advanced dynamic robots,” SoftBank Group Chairman Masayoshi Son said in a statement on Friday.
Raibert is CEO and founder of Boston Dynamics.
SoftBank has embarked on an aggressive acquisition campaign to boost its research and development capabilities. The group is backing the $93 billion Vision Fund, the world’s largest private equity fund that seeks to invest in technologies expected to grow significantly in the near future, such as robotics and AI.
Son describes the fund as essential for setting up SoftBank for a data “gold rush” which he expects to happen as the global economy becomes increasingly digitized.
Boston Dynamics and Schaft could eventually be vested with the Vision Fund, a person familiar with the deal told Reuters
Schaft, a University of Tokyo spinoff, develops bipedal robots designed to negotiate uneven terrain.
“Robotics as a field has great potential and we are happy to see Boston Dynamics and Schaft join the SoftBank team to continue contributing to the next generation of robotics,” an Alphabet spokesperson said.
Boston Dynamics has produced a number of robots that mimic human and animal movement, including Atlas, a humanoid model that coordinates motion and balance using its arms and legs and can pick itself up off the ground when knocked over.
It is best known for building robots that look as if they belong in science-fiction movies and are often co-developed or funded by the US military. Its military projects would mean the acquisition is likely to be subject to regulatory approval from Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS).
The company was acquired by Google in 2013 during a robotics shopping spree led by Android creator Andy Rubin, but the team struggled to find its place within the tech giant after Rubin’s departure, former Boston Dynamics employees said.
“They are advancing the state of the art in independent robotics. They are probably the leader in the US,” said Arnis Mangolds, a robotics expert who has worked with Boston Dynamics.
“But the problem is it is not ready for prime time and very few people have a tolerance for that.”


SABIC prepares to meet investors to offer bond

Updated 40 min 2 sec ago
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SABIC prepares to meet investors to offer bond

  • The Kingdom’s petrochemical giant will be meeting investors in London, New York, Los Angeles and Boston from Sept. 25
  • SABIC has also confirmed the appointment of BNP Paribas and Citigroup as global coordinators on the sale

LONDON: Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC) is preparing to offer its dollar-denominated unsecured bond to the global market with investor meetings due to start this week.
The Kingdom’s petrochemical giant will be meeting investors in London, New York, Los Angeles and Boston from Sept. 25, according to a filing on the Saudi stock exchange on Tuesday.
The Saudi company is likely to be keen to tap into the heightened international interest in the Kingdom’s financial markets following the lifting of some restrictions on foreign investors’ activities at the start of the year.
SABIC has also confirmed the appointment of BNP Paribas and Citigroup as global coordinators on the sale, alongside HSBC Bank, Mitsubishi UFG Securities EMEA and Standard Chartered Bank acting as joint lead managers, in its Tadawul note.
The proposed issuance has been well-received so far by analysts with ratings agency Moody’s Investor Service assigning an ‘A1’ rating to the proposed senior unsecured notes to be issued by the financial vehicle, referred to as SABIC Capital II, and guaranteed by SABIC itself.
“SABIC’s A1 rating reflects its strong business position in the chemical sector and its ability to weather industry volatility, particularly given its healthy operational cash flows and conservative liquidity profile,” said Rehan Akbar, a senior analyst at Moody’s, in a note on Monday.

 

The bond is anticipated to be used in part to refinance an existing SR11.3 billion ($3 billion) one-year bridge loan raised in January this year to fund the company’s 24.99 percent stake in the Swiss chemical company Clariant, according to the Moody’s note. All regulatory requirements were completed on this acquisition earlier this month.
Cash proceeds from the bond may also be used to repay a $1 billion bond due on Oct. 3, according to Moody’s.
On Tuesday SABIC confirmed that the bond will be used mainly to refinance “outstanding financial obligations” of the company and its subsidiaries.
Analysts at rating agency S&P Global were also upbeat about SABIC’s outlook, with research published on Monday stating that the company has “strong profitability” via its KSA operations and a “strong” liquidity position.
“The debt issuance is helpful for the credit profile in the sense that it extends the company’s debt maturity profile and strengthens its liquidity position,” said Tommy Trask, corporate and infrastructure credit analyst at S&P Global.
The agency currently assigns the petrochemical firm an ‘A Minus’ rating, with a “stable outlook,” which it said reflects its “view on the sovereign as well as its expectations that SABIC will maintain high profitability under current benign industry conditions.”
S&P Global’s report said margins in the global chemical industry will “largely stabilize in 2018 following several years of improvement, attributable to the increase in commodity chemical capacity.”
However, it also warned that a key risk to credit quality is
the trend for mergers and acquisitions within the sector and the “potential negative impact on credit metrics from funding them with debt.”

FACTOID

SABIC operates in more than 50 countries across the world.