EXCLUSIVE SoftBank shrinks robotics enterprise, stops Pepper production- sources

TOKYO, June 28 (Reuters) – SoftBank Group Corp (9984.T) is slashing jobs at its world robotics enterprise and has stopped producing its Pepper robotic, in line with sources and paperwork reviewed by Reuters, because the conglomerate downgrades its business ambitions.

Manufacturing of the humanoid Pepper, touted as the primary robotic with “a coronary heart”, was stopped final 12 months, in line with three sources aware of the matter and the paperwork. It will be expensive to restart manufacturing, two of the sources mentioned.

Constructed by Foxconn (2317.TW) in China, Pepper was meant to assist plug labour shortages however struggled to discover a world buyer base. Solely 27,000 had been produced, one of many sources mentioned.

The pullback displays the fading of Chief Govt Masayoshi Son’s plan to make SoftBank the chief within the robotics business, producing human-like machines that would serve clients and babysit children.

As a part of the retrenchment, SoftBank plans to remove about half of its 330 employees positions in France in September, in line with 4 sources and paperwork, reducing into the historic coronary heart of the enterprise, whose origins lie in SoftBank’s 2012 acquisition of French robotics agency Aldebaran.

Half of the employees has already been reduce from smaller gross sales operations in america and Britain, three of the sources mentioned, with staff in Japan redeployed from the robotics enterprise. All of the sources declined to be named as they don’t seem to be permitted to talk to the media.

In France, negotiations on layoffs are ongoing with ultimate numbers not determined, a SoftBank spokesperson mentioned. Workers have additionally been laid off within the U.S. and UK and redeployed in Japan, the spokesperson mentioned, declining to offer additional offers.

SoftBank “will proceed to make important investments in next-generation robots to serve our clients and companions,” the French robotics enterprise mentioned in an announcement.

The job cuts in France had been first reported by French enterprise web site Le Journal du Internet. The broader restructuring is reported by Reuters for the primary time.


SoftBank Robotics launched the chest-high Pepper in 2014 and it turned the face of the conglomerate, embodying Son’s optimistic imaginative and prescient of a technology-powered future as he constructed his abroad investing operations.

Behind the scenes, tradition clashes between the French enterprise and Tokyo administration harm the robotic’s improvement and its gross sales had been impacted by its restricted performance and unreliability, the three sources mentioned.

SoftBank, which propped up Pepper gross sales by putting the robotic in its cell phone shops, has shifted focus to merchandise reminiscent of cleansing robotic Whiz. The French enterprise was more and more sidelined, the three sources mentioned.

The conglomerate has been promoting belongings together with nearly all of its stake in robotics agency Boston Dynamics as Son focuses extra on investing by way of the Imaginative and prescient Fund.

The 63-year-old billionaire, who made his fortune by way of promoting cell phones contracts and investing in startups, describes SoftBank as a “capital supplier for the data revolution.”

SoftBank retains publicity to robotics and automation expertise, proudly owning SB Logistics and with stakes in robotics agency Berkshire Gray and warehouse robotics agency AutoStore.

Reporting by Sam Nussey. Enhancing by Gerry Doyle and Carmel Crimmins

Our Requirements: The Thomson Reuters Belief Rules.


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