Alibaba, Foxconn Invest in SoftBank’s Robots

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba (BABA) and Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn Technology (FXCOF) today announced that they will be investing about $118 million each in SoftBank Robotics Holdings, SoftBank's (SFTBF) robotics holding company. As a result, Alibaba and Foxconn will both hold a 20% stake in SoftBank Robotics.

The announcement shows a commitment to SoftBank's global robotics business, with products such as Pepper, a robot that can emulate human body language, dance, make jokes and gauge human emotions based on expressions. The consumer and business robotics market is expected to grow to $1.5 billion by 2019, according to Business Insider Intelligence, pointing to a valuable growth area for the three companies involved in Thursday's deal. 

The goal for SoftBank is to "bring more smiles to people around the world" through robots, according to Masayoshi Son, chairman and CEO of venture capital firm SoftBank.

For Alibaba, the opportunities with robotics are greater than just spreading happiness.

"As we enter the data technology era, robotics will become a critical field that catalyzes technological breakthroughs in numerous sectors such as health care, public services, research and at home," said Jack Ma, Alibaba founder and executive chairman. "Our partnership with SoftBank and Foxconn combines the best hardware and software talent in the industry to pave the way for robotics research and development."

Foxconn, best known for manufacturing Apple (AAPL) iPhones, similarly sees a huge potential in the field of robotics, mainly for its own manufacturing capabilities. "This is a strategic area of focus for our company as we continue to advance our capabilities in intelligent manufacturing and realize our Industry 4.0 vision," said Terry Gou, founder and CEO of Foxconn.

Alibaba and Foxconn seem to be teaming up quite a bit recently, with reports that the two companies are also considering a joint investment in the Indian e-commerce startup Snapdeal.

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