10 more robotics companies acquired. Why?

28 September 2015

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shopping_cart_robot_buy_purchase_commerce At last week’s RoboBusiness Conference and Expo in San Jose, there was much gossip, discussion and head scratching regarding the two most recent acquisitions of robot companies: Adept Technologies by Omron and Universal Robots by Teradyne.

Everyone asked why. Many questioned the business sense of the deals. And others asked why there were so many acquisitions compared to other methods of funding like IPOs or equity investments. As can be seen from the following pages of The Robot Report, there has been a significant increase in the number of acquisitions this year.

Here are the most recent 10 acquisitions:

  1. The Adept Technologies sale to Omron Industrial Automation wasn’t a surprise – the company had been on a losing streak and the board had placed a salvage artist as the CEO – but at $200 million, the sale amount was a surprise. The all-cash deal represented a 63% premium over Adept’s stock market capitalization the day before the announcement. OMRON, a Kyoto-based global component manufacturer and robotics integrator employs over 39,000 people in 110 countries and has annual revenues of $7.3B, of which $2.7B was from their industrial automation group. Interestingly, and largely unnoticed, was the acquisition by Omron a few months earlier of Delta Tau, a motion controller component manufacturer, for an undisclosed sum. An OMRON spokesman said of the two acquisitions, “These acquisitions are part of our strategy to enhance our automation technology and position us for long term growth. Robotics will elevate our offerings of advanced automation.”
  2. In a surprise move in May, 2015, privately held Danish company Universal Robots – the successful producer of the UR line of collaborative robots – sold to Massachusetts-based Teradyne, a provider of electronic testing equipment for $350 million. Universal has had rapid growth since their startup in 2005. Their first products were sold in 2009, their 2014 sales of $38M were 70% greater than 2013, and they have grown their distributor network to over 200 worldwide. Teradyne, a publicly-traded supplier of test equipment with over 3,900 employees and a product line that doesn’t include anything robotic, has a market value of $4.37B. Teradyne uses robots in their manufacturing process and their customers are good prospects for Universal’s robots. A spokesman said of the transaction, “This acquisition complements our System and Wireless Test businesses while adding a powerful, additional growth platform to Teradyne.”
  3. Just the other day it was announced that Fred Moll, the entrepreneur behind Intuitive Surgical, Hansen Medical and Origin Medsystems, received $149.5 million in equity funding for his stealthy startup Auris Surgical Robotics. Auris, founded in 2011, with $184.1M in funding since then, described itself as a venture-funded company developing a robotic microsurgical system designed specifically for opthalmic surgery. The company says they are deep in stealth mode with no comment about the funding or how it will be used.
  4. Earlier this year TransEnterix Surgical, a medical devices company, raised $50M from an IPO and market switch. This week TransEnterix acquired the surgical robotics division of SOFAR Spa, an Italian healthcare and pharma company, for $99.8M. The division acquired has spearheaded the TELELAP ALF-X project (Advanced Laparoscopy through Force Reflection) since 2002. SOFAR received $25M in cash and 15.5M shares of TransEnterix stock; the agreement also provides for $31.1M in cash to be paid in 3 waves based on negotiated milestones.
  5. Omnicell, a supplier of automation and business analytics software for patient-centric medication and supply management, acquired Florida-based MTS Medication Technologies for $156 million. MTS is developing a pharmacy robot that kits and packages a person’s multi-dose daily pills.
  6. A month earlier Omnicell acquired MACH4 Pharma Systems, a German company, for an undisclosed amount . MACH4 provides modular robotic solutions for dispensing medications in original manufacturers’ packages.
  7. RobotShop, the Montreal-based online robot and robot parts reseller, acquired Let’s Make Robots, a robot makers and enthusiasts website and community, for an undisclosed amount.
  8. Hypertherm, a welding and laser cutting company, acquired Jabez Technologies, a Canadian software provider for an undisclosed amount. Jabez makes Robotmaster CAD/CAM software that integrates off-line programming, simulation and code generation for robots, and delivering quick robot programs.
  9. DMY Capital, an Australian penny stock company, acquired FastBrick Robotics, an Australian startup that has a new robotic system for laying bricks, for $2.25M plus a bonus of $7M if and when FastBrick is able to brick the walls of a house within 3 days. FastBrick has invented a unique navigation and stabilization system that allows for accurate and fast robotic manipulation over very large areas to within 0.5mm accuracy in all axes regardless of dynamic interferences.
  10. Lauren International, a consortium of small manufacturing companies, bought Theiss Aviation, a provider of UAVs to US DoD, NASA and other defense organizations, for an undisclosed amount and renamed it to Theiss UAV Solutions. This is Lauren’s first purchase into robotics. A Lauren spokesman said, “Theiss UAV solutions wants to bridge the gap between people who fly and businesses that need aerial data collection, enabling businesses to use UAV technology and cultivate a healthy relationship with the FAA.”


We appear to be on the rising curve of a robot renaissance: 2015 fundings already double all of 2014 , and the number of acquisitions has also doubled. Robots, robotics and robotic-like apps are entering our lives and workplaces everyday and everywhere, and there is almost continuous media attention.

Looking back at the beginning of the digital era, hobbyists and early adopters dabbled for years but not much happened until three applications showed businesses how PCs and software applications could change the way they worked and make them more productive. As business people became aware of the qualities and uses of WordStar, VisiCalc and dBase, they turned the curve upward exponentially, and even though none of those three companies still exists, their concepts are ubiquitous in our world today.

As robots move out from behind fixed and caged locations to take their place alongside us (as the new collaborative robots are doing, providing assistance or augmenting skills, and as the new surgical systems and low-cost data collecting drones are doing, as they move from sci-fi movies and toys to real-life cognizant and communicating assistants), business people once again can see the tide rising, and they want in (or put another way, they don’t want to be left out). Ray Kurzweil said that auto companies don’t want to be ‘Nokia’d’, i.e., they don’t want to be pushed aside as typewriters were by WordStar, WordPerfect and MS Word, or Nokia’s operating system was by Google’s Android.

Thus companies of all types and sizes are finding strategic reasons to acquire robotic ventures to add to their arsenal of products and services, because they don’t want to be left behind. And they are paying high prices for their acquisitions. Many thought the multiples Teradyne paid for Universal Robots were unreasonably high. Others suggested that the growth Universal has shown – and continues to show – are worth every penny.

To me, I see that acquisitions make sense to and for the acquirer; I’m just disappointed that the acquired company won’t go public so that investors such as myself can share in the fun and ride the wave.

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Frank Tobe is the owner and publisher of The Robot Report, and is also a panel member for Robohub's Robotics by Invitation series.
Frank Tobe is the owner and publisher of The Robot Report, and is also a panel member for Robohub's Robotics by Invitation series.

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