Exclusive SoftBank in talks on sale of French robotics business to United Robotics of Germany

A visitor looks at his mobile device next to a robot chili during the clock fair “International Salon de la Haute Horlogerie” (SIHH) in Geneva, Switzerland January 14, 2019. Reuters / Dennis Ballybous / File photo

TOKYO (Reuters) – SoftBank Group is in talks to sell the Paris-based robotics business behind its Pepper Android platform to United Robotics Group of Germany, which it previously named a leader business, according to sources and documents seen by Reuters. Had given. Main development engine.

Two well-informed sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said talks are on and plans may change. It is not clear whether SoftBank will hold a stake in the company and how much the deal will cost.

United Robotics Group, backed by German robot maker Hahn, became the most important European distributor for the SoftBank (9984.T) bots that fight against the Paper and Now bots in October.

United Robotics declined to comment. SoftBank said it remains committed to the paper business.

Reuters reported in June that SoftBank had stopped manufacturing Pepper and was cutting jobs in its robotics business around the world. Nearly half of the 330 jobs in France were cut, with activities leading to the acquisition of start-up Aldebaran in 2012, which the paper set up specifically for SoftBank.

According to sources and job reviews, poor work ethics has resulted in more employees leaving jobs, forcing SoftBank to post vacancies to fill key positions.

According to its website, United Robotics has offices in Germany and Austria. According to sources, the recently retired SoftBank employees have been hired by the company in areas like sales.

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Reuters previously reported that SoftBank, torn by the cultural divide between its European employees and Japanese managers, has a dwindling inventory of the paper’s outdated units and components.

In addition to Pepper and Now, a small human-like robot, United Robotics also markets a robot like Sawyer, an industrial robot that can work with people.

The restructuring comes as SoftBank focuses on selling third-party hardware after the commercial failure of the paper.

The group established parallel sales offices in Great Britain, reducing its dependence on the Parisian business.

According to sources and documents seen by Reuters, SoftBank engineers in France are working on a secret project to develop a service robot called Plato.

However, sources said that managers in Japan postponed ordering the robot. At the same time, SoftBank was doing business of selling similar bots from outside companies, undermining the commercial viability of its product.

(Sam Nosy reports). Editing by David Dolan and Jerry Doyle

Our Criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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