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Analysts at Osaka-based financial services company, Osaka Matsui Management, have advised that Amazon.com Inc's advanced talks to buy self-driving-car start-up Zoox Inc. has them speculating the acquisition could save the e-commerce juggernaut tens of billions a year and bring auto, parcel and ride-hailing firms to their knees.
"Shipping charges are one of Amazon's biggest expenses and could exceed $90 billion in the coming years. Having an autonomous service could save the company over $20 billion a year," commented Alistair Richmond, Director of Corporate Trading at Osaka Matsui Management.
Autonomous technology is a logical extension of Amazon's attempt at creating its own third-party logistics channel. They see the company becoming a direct rival to the likes of Tesla Inc. and General Motors Co., with the potential for Amazon to succeed in food delivery and ride-sharing.
"Other firms in the automotive and chip industries have also held negotiations with Zoox about a possible investment. Aside from Amazon, at least one other company has offered to buy them. Zoox is not likely to sell unless it receives an offer over $1 billion, which it previously raised," commented Michael Carter, Head of Global Equities at Osaka Matsui Management.
The start-up certainly had ambition. By 2020, Zoox was aiming to build a fully self-driving car. However, the start-up's board voted to remove Chief Executive Officer, Tim Kentley-Klay, following a 2018 funding round that valued Zoox at $3.2 billion. The executive opposed the move, saying the directors were "optimising for a little money in hand at the expense of profound progress."
Dow Jones reported Amazon is in advanced talks to purchase Zoox for less than the 2018 valuation of $3.2 billion.
Amazon is committed to spending aggressively on automating its e-commerce business. In 2012, the online retail juggernaut paid $775 million to acquire warehouse robot-maker Kiva Systems Inc., and now has tens of thousands of robots in warehouses globally.
But paying drivers for delivering packages is still one of the company's highest operating costs. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos revealed plans for drone delivery in 2013, but they have failed to materialise at scale. Last year, Amazon unveiled an experimental delivery robot in the Seattle area called Scout that rolls like a shopping cart on sidewalks.