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Samsung CEO hints at buyout of Rainbow Robotics

By Jie Ye-eun

Published : March 21, 2023 - 14:56

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Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman and co-CEO Han Jong-hee speaks at a press event in Seoul, Tuesday. (Samsung Electronics) Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman and co-CEO Han Jong-hee speaks at a press event in Seoul, Tuesday. (Samsung Electronics)

Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman and co-CEO Han Jong-hee said Tuesday that the tech giant was in talks to secure a greater stake in Rainbow Robotics, a local humanoid robotics company, in an apparent move to ramp up its presence in the burgeoning robotics market.

At a press event held to introduce Samsung’s new Bespoke home appliances lineup in Seoul earlier in the day, Han noted that the company has a strong appetite to acquire Rainbow Robotics and related talks are on the way “little by little.”

Last week, Samsung said in a regulatory filing that it had acquired an additional 4.77 percent stake in Rainbow Robotics for 27.8 billion won ($21.3 million), becoming the second-largest shareholder of the robot developer with 14.99 percent ownership.

Rainbow Robotics, founded by a research team at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology Humanoid Robot Research Center in 2011, is one of a handful of robot companies making bipedal human-like robots.

Investors paid keen attention to last week’s stake purchase, as it included a call option for the entirety of shares owned by CEO Lee Jung-ho, the largest shareholder, and other special interest groups.

Asked about the timing of a possible acquisition, the Samsung chief who oversees the smartphone and home appliance business division took a cautious tone and said “It’s a confidential matter.”

“Due to the sluggish economy, our M&As are being delayed but we will see a good result this year,” he said. “We are seeking to close a deal within the year, but it may depend on the talks with the other party.”

Han also hinted that Samsung is pouring considerable resources into the robotics business, saying a group of engineers is already working on a “Samsung robotics platform” without further elaborating on details.

“Our robotics team is preparing to launch EX1 this year,” he added, referring to a human assistant robot the tech giant is working on.