EXCLUSIVE SoftBank shrinks robotics business, stops Pepper production- sources

TOKYO, June 28 (Reuters) – SoftBank Group Corp (9984.T) is slashing jobs at its global robotics business and has stopped producing its Pepper robot, according to sources and documents reviewed by Reuters, as the conglomerate downgrades its industry ambitions.

Production of the humanoid Pepper, touted as the first robot with “a heart”, was stopped last year, according to three sources familiar with the matter and the documents. It would be costly to restart production, two of the sources said.

Built by Foxconn (2317.TW) in China, Pepper was meant to help plug labour shortages but struggled to find a global customer base. Only 27,000 were produced, one of the sources said.

The pullback reflects the fading of Chief Executive Masayoshi Son’s plan to make SoftBank the leader in the robotics industry, producing human-like machines that could serve customers and babysit kids.

As part of the retrenchment, SoftBank plans to eliminate about half of its 330 staff…

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