2016 was a banner year for acquisitions of companies involved in robotics and automation: 50 sold; 11 for amounts over $500 million; five were over a billion. 30 of the 50 companies disclosed transaction amounts which totaled up to a colossal $18.867 billion!
Chinese money was involved in over 47% of those acquisitions. Kuka by Midea, Dematic by Kion, KraussMaffei by ChemChina, Paslin by Wenfang, Gimatic by Agic Capital, Ecoclean by SBS Group to name the top ones.
Top 10 Robotics Acquisitions in 2016
- KUGA AG - Acquired by Midea Group - $5.110 Billion - In a complex stock play over the course of many months, Chinese consumer products manufacturer Midea Group acquired over 94% of the outstanding and privately held shares of KUKA AG, a Germany-based robot manufacturers and one of the Big Four of international robot makers. The approval process involved negotiations with the German and US governments, the selling off of KUKA Aero (which is involved in sensitive aerospace technologies) to AIT (see below), and an agreement regarding jobs and plants in Germany which will be protected until the end of 2023. Also Midea agreed not to pursue a domination agreement or de-listing of KUKA’s shares.
- DEMATIC - Acquired by Kion Group - $2.1 Billion - The Kion Group, with funding from their Chinese partner, acquired Dematic Corp. for $2.1 billion. Kion’s biggest single shareholder is Chinese diesel-engine maker Weichai Power with a 38.3% stake. Kion has been on a tear acquiring all sorts of companies in the logistics sphere: Egemin, Linde, Retrotech and now Dematic.
- INTELLIGRATED - Acquired by Honeywell - $1.5 billion - Honeywell's material handling solutions are somewhat old school, hence their need to strategically acquire newer technology. Intelligrated has been a successful integrator of mobile and stationary robotic solutions and systems for 20+ years for manufacturing, warehousing and distribution material handling and automated storage and retrieval. In recent years the company has posted double-digit year-over-year growth. Intelligrated brings a large IP portfolio of warehouse automation, order fulfillment and software solutions and has an extensive presence in North American e-commerce and the retail, and food and beverage markets.
- AFFYMETRIX - Acquired by ThermoFisher - $1.3 billion - ThermoFisher Scientific acquired Affymetrix for $1.3 billion. Adding Affymetrix's products will help ThermoFisher expand its array of lab equipment and robots into biosciences and genetic analysis workflows.
- INVENSENSE - Acquired by TDK Corporation - $1.3 billion - TDK Corporation acquired InvenSense, Inc. for $1.3 billion. InvenSense provides motion sensors, and is known for its six- and nine-axis motion sensors, which are used in some advanced consumer products and applications. Recently it has added inertial, environmental, microphone, and ultrasonic sensors to its product line.
- KRAUSSMAFFEI AUTOMATION - Acquired by ChemChina - $1 billion - ChemChina and a group of other investors including Chinese state funds, acquired Germany’s KraussMaffei Automation, an industrial robot integrator and plastics, carbon fiber, and rubber processor, for $1 billion.
- ARCAM AB - Acquired by GE - $800 million - Arcam AB, based in Mölndal, Sweden, was acquired by GE. Arcam invented an electron beam melting machine for metal-based additive manufacturing, and also produces advanced metal powders. Its customers are in the aerospace and healthcare industries. Arcam generated $68 million in revenues in 2015 with approximately 285 employees.
- E2V - Acquired by Teledyne Technologies - $780 million - Teledyne Technologies, which specializes in deepwater gas and oil exploration and production, oceanographic research, air and water quality environmental monitoring, electronics design and development, factory automation and medical imaging, acquired British imaging sensor maker E2V Technologies in an all cash $780 million transaction. E2V's imaging devices, machine vision cameras for sensitive, high speed inspection processes, industrial processing systems, and other sensors, enable a range of industrial robotic and automation systems to work more efficiently and for space science and astronomy applications.
- OTTO MOTORS - Acquired by Uber - $680 million - Otto Motors, a San Francisco startup developing self-driving truck system kits, was acquired by Uber for $680 million. The deal was worth about 0.9% of Uber. Also part of the deal, Otto gets 20% of any trucking business profits they end up creating. Anthony Levandowski, a former Google engineer and one of Otto’s founders, will take charge of Uber’s self-driving car operations as well as continuing to run Otto’s trucking business.
- CRUISE AUTOMATION - Acquired by General Motors - $600 million - General Motors acquired Cruise Automation, a startup that was developing autopilot systems for existing cars, for an undisclosed sum but, according to Fortune magazine, a figure "north of $1 billion." This figure was later modified to $600 million. GM has stated their goal of creating the industry’s biggest driverless-vehicle fleet which is why GM paid such a steep purchase price for Cruise, invested $500 million into Lyft, and another $25 million to acquire the employees and technology left over from Sidecar, a ride-sharing service that shut down last December. Certainly these acquisitions are both a talent and a technology grab to help GM facilitate their fleet-vehicle goal.
- SLM SOLUTIONS GROUP - Acquired by GE - $600 million - SLM Solutions Group, based in Lübeck, Germany, produces laser machines for metal-based 3D additive manufacturing with customers in the aerospace, energy, healthcare, and automotive industries. SLM generated $74 million in revenues in 2015 with 260 employees.
There were also several robotics acquisitions where financial information was not disclosed.
Top 10 Robotics Acquisitions Where Financial Information Was Not Disclosed
- AERIAL MOB - Acquired by 5D Robotics - Price Not Disclosed - 5D Robotics, a San Diego area integrator of unmanned and mobile robotics using ultra-wide band (5D) communications, acquired Aerial MOB, a drone aerial cinematography startup. The acquisition has led to the formation of the 5D Aerial division which will provide 3D mapping, photogrammetry, thermal and multi-spectral imagery data to vertical markets including oil and gas, utilities and construction.
- ASCENDING TECHNOLOGIES - Acquired by Intel - Price Not Disclosed - Ascending Technologies, a German provider of autopilot systems, unmanned aircraft systems and multi-rotor technology for professional, civil and research applications, was acquired by Intel. At CES, Intel showed off Ascending's technology in a colorful video of 100 drones performing a light show in time with an orchestra playing a Beethoven Symphony. Intel gains expertise and technology (and 75 new employees) to accelerate the deployment of Intel RealSense technology into the fast growing drone market segment.
- BLUEFIN ROBOTICS - Acquired by General Dynamics - Price Not Disclosed - Bluefin Robotics was acquired by the Mission Systems unit of General Dynamics. Bluefin is a Massachusetts-based developer of autonomous undersea robots used for mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance applications for the DoD.
- EAGLE SCOUT IMAGING - Acquired by Deveron UAS - Price Not Disclosed - Deveron UAS (previously Deveron Resources, a Canadian mineral exploration company) acquired Eagle Scout Imaging, an agricultural UAS data provider, for an undisclosed amount with the goal of renaming and rebranding Eagle Scout Imaging and Deveron Resources into Deveron UAS, a provider of aerial data to farmers.
- ERGOPEDIA - Acquired by Pasco Scientific - Price Not Disclosed - Pasco Scientific, a provider of educational robots, acquired Ergopedia, the maker of the ErgoBot educational bot.
- GATEWING (A TRIMBLE SUBSIDIARY) - Acquired by Delair-Tech - Price Not Disclosed - Delair-Tech, a French UAS manufacturer, acquired Gatewing from Trimble and also signed a strategic alliance with both Trimble and Microdrones, a German UAS maker, to be Trimbles preferred providers for UAS solutions. 100+ Gatewing employees are involved in the transaction.
- GROHMANN ENGINEERING - Acquired by Tesla - Price Not Disclosed - Tesla acquired Germany’s Grohmann Engineering, an integrator of factory systems technology including robotics. Tesla will turn Grohmann into a new subdivision dedicated to helping Tesla increase the automation and effectiveness of its manufacturing process. Although no disclosure was made regarding how or how much was paid, Grohmann’s 2015 revenue was $125 million and they employ around 800 people in facilities in Germany, the US and China.
- HOCOMO - Acquired by DIH International - Price Not Disclosed - Hocomo, a Swiss provider of robotic and sensor-based rehabilitation solutions, merged with Chinese DIH International to provide comprehensive rehab solutions. DIH International is a corporate holding group from Hong Kong with offices in China, Korea, the Netherlands and the US.
- JAYBRIDGE ROBOTICS - Acquired by Toyota - Price Not Disclosed - In a move similar to the 2015 deal where Uber hired almost the complete staff of CMU's NREC, Toyota hired the entire 16-member software engineering staff of Jaybridge Robotics, the company providing software automation of industrial vehicles across a range of industrial applications including agriculture, mining, marine, and rail. Jaybridge-engineered autonomous systems have logged thousands of hours in the hands of end-users. Jaybridge Robotics, Inc. remains an independent company and will continue to provide support for existing clients.
- KUKA AERO - Acquired by Advanced Integration Technology - Price Not Disclosed - Advanced Integration Technology (AIT) acquired KUKA Systems Aerospace North America (KUKA Aero), in a carve-out transaction to comply with U.S. regulators who objected to KUKA's sale to Chinese consumer products manufacturer Midea. The KUKA Midea transaction was subsequently approved.
Why All The Acquisitions?
A push by some of the world’s largest corporations to find new avenues to expand in the face of anemic or problematic economic growth led to major acquisitions in areas adjacent to their core business.
Chris Ventresca, global co-head of M&A at JPMorgan Chase & Co said.
“Companies are reinventing themselves, looking at their business in a new way with regards to how can they be a disrupter, and how they can prevent being disrupted – and this opens up deal flow”
Enrico Krog Iversen, who sold Danish Universal Robots to American Teradyne in 2015, when asked why his company didn't go public, said:
"Exiting to a larger company will often make sense not only for financial reasons, but also for people reasons – opening up for new/more career opportunities. You will become part of something bigger and can instantly get access to additional resources. Naturally there are also some political considerations if you choose this path. You will probably get access to a very strong board who can help you develop the company faster.
An IPO may bring more money on paper, but it is a very restricted way to exit and it is also very bureaucratic to run a listed company. In our case, I preferred to have a good sum of money in the bank instead of a lot of money on paper. Also I did not personally fancy all the bureaucracy and politics that goes with being CEO of a listed company."
COMMENTARY: Of the 48 acquisitions thus far in 2016, only 30 disclosed the amounts involved. However those 30 transactions totaled an astounding $17.5 billion!!