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Future Mobility

Hyundai Motor acquires Boston Dynamics from SoftBank for almost $1 bn

Dec 09, 2020 (Gmt+09:00)

Hyundai Motor Co. has decided to acquire the US robotics firm Boston Dynamics Inc. from SoftBank Group for slightly less than 1 trillion won ($921 million) and will finalize the acquisition at its Dec. 10 board meeting, according to sources with knowledge of the matter on Dec. 8.

The acquisition will become the first buyout deal for Chung Euisun as Hyundai Motor Group’s chairman since he assumed the chairmanship last October, accelerating the group’s push into the future mobility market. Hyundai has chosen robotics as one of its new growth engines, alongside electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell cars.

Hyundai Motor will finance about half of the acquisition price, or more than 400 billion won, with its affiliates including auto parts maker Hyundai Mobis Co. paying for the remainder, the sources told the Market Insight, The Korea Economic Daily's capital market news outlet.

Boston Dynamics is famous for technologically advanced but unprofitable machines such as Spot, a maneuverable dog-like robot, while Hyundai Motor has focused on wheeled robots intended for factory use.

Spot, unveiled in 2015, is a four-legged robot that can trot, climb stairs and open doors.

Boston Dynamics has also introduced the humanoid robot Atlas and the bird-like mobile robot Handle designed for logistics services.

The US robot maker was originally spun off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1992, acquired by Google owner Alphabet in 2014 and then sold to SoftBank in 2017.

Last month, sources had said that Hyundai Motor has hired Goldman Sachs as its adviser and top Korean law firm Kim & Chang as the legal counsel in its attempt to acquire Boston Dynamics.

Hyundai Motor has shown growing interest in automated vehicle technology and robotics over the past years, and said it will invest up to 1.5 trillion won ($1.4 billion) in robotics by 2025.

Since Chairman Chung set up Hyundai Robotics within the group in 2018 as its then executive vice chairman, the automotive group invested in the autonomous vehicle startup 42dot and Realtime Robotics, a Boston-based startup, last year.

Chung said in a town hall meeting with group employees in October that robotics will account for 20% of its future business, with automobiles taking up half of its sales, followed by urban air mobility (UAM) at 30%.

In a new year’s speech early this year, Chung said the group will invest 100 trillion won in the future mobility, including personal air vehicles, robotics and last-mile delivery robots, as well as existing engine vehicles, signaling its intent to pursue additional acquisitions of mobility-related companies.

(Updated on Dec. 9 to add in the first paragraph that Hyundai Motor will finalize the purchase at a Dec. 10 board meeting.)

Write to Chae-Yeon Kim and Sang-eun Lucia Lee at why29@hankyung.com

Yeonhee Kim edited this article.

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