SoftBank to buy robotics businesses from Alphabet Inc.

SoftBank to buy robotics businesses from Alphabet Inc.(AFP)
Updated 09 June 2017
0

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.”


Saudi Aramco discussing investments in India’s Reliance Industries

Updated 20 February 2019
0

Saudi Aramco discussing investments in India’s Reliance Industries

  • World's biggest oil company targets petrochemicals
  • India is a top investment priority for Saudi Arabia

NEW DELHI: Saudi Aramco’s CEO Amin Nassar said on Wednesday that the company is in talks with India’s Reliance Industries for possible investments and is seeking other opportunities in the country.
Saudi Aramco signed an agreement in April with a consortium of state-owned Indian refiners to participate in a $44 billion refinery project on the country’s west coast.
“We are looking at additional investment in India so we are in discussions with other companies as well, including Reliance and others,” Nasser said in a panel discussion in New Delhi.
“We are looking at it. We are not limited to that investment which is the mega refinery,” Nasser said, referring to the west coast project, which would process 1.2 million bpd of crude and produce 18 million tons per year of petrochemicals.
Nasser is part of the entourage traveling with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is in India for a one-day visit.
Reliance Industries, controlled by Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, is India’s biggest refining and petrochemicals company and runs a 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd) refinery in western India. It plans to expand the capacity to 2 million bpd by 2030, according to plans shared with the Indian government.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude oil exporter, is keen to expand further into oil refining and petrochemicals.
India would provide a fast growing market for oil and fuels and is already a steady buyer of Saudi oil.
“India is an investment priority for Saudi Aramco. India takes from us almost 800,000 barrels a day and by 2040 India’s total consumption will be around 8.2 million barrels per day,” Nasser said.
India is currently world’s third-biggest crude oil consumer with demand of 4.7 million bpd, according to government figures.
However, Aramco is already facing delays for the refinery project, planned for the western state of Maharashtra, as thousands of farmers have refused to surrender land for it.
Reuters reported on Tuesday the Maharashtra government is looking to move the refinery location.
Yousef Al-Benyan, the chief executive officer for SABIC, the Saudi Arabia-based petrochemical company that is the fourth largest in the world, was also on the panel. He said SABIC wants to expand its business and presence in India.