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

FILE PHOTO: A worker uses a forklift to retrieve products stored inside of a large Amazon fulfillment center in Robbinsville, New Jersey, U.S., November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

(Reuters) - Amazon AMZN.O could build a stake of almost a third in warehouse robotics firm Balyo BALYO.PA 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 $775 million (606.2 million pounds) 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.

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

The full 29 percent would be exercised if Amazon orders up to 300 million euros (271.5 million pounds) 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 euros, up 40 percent on the previous year.

Reporting by Michal Aleksandrowicz and Alan Charlish in Gdynia; Editing by Mark Potter