A worker uses a forklift to retrieve products stored inside of a large Amazon fulfillment center in Robbinsville, New Jersey, US, Nov 27, 2017. (Photo: Reuters/Lucas Jackson)

SEATTLE - Reuters
Amazon to invest in French firm's technology for self-driving forklifts

Amazon could build a stake of almost a third in warehouse robotics firm Balyo in the next seven years, as part of a deal that could boost sales of the French company's technology for self-driving forklift trucks.

Warehouse automation is a key element in efforts by Amazon to cut costs and speed up deliveries. The world's biggest online retailer currently uses robots developed by Kiva Systems, a company it bought for US$775 million in 2012.

"This agreement ... represents an unprecedented opportunity for Balyo to grow its business and supports the soundness of our investments over the years to perfect our robotic solutions," Balyo Chief Executive Fabien Bardinet said on Thursday (Jan 10).

Under the terms of the deal, Amazon will receive free stock warrants representing up to 29 per cent of Balyo's capital which it can exercise depending on orders of the company's products.

The full 29 per cent would be exercised if Amazon orders up to €300 million (US$346 million) of Balyo's enabled products.

Balyo, whose navigation system turns forklifts into self-driving vehicles, said it expected 2018 revenue to come in at €23.3 million, up 40 per cent on the previous year.

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