ABB buys Austrian industrial automation firm Bernecker & Rainer for reported $2 bn

Swedish-Swiss engineering giant ABB has acquired Austrian industrial automation company Bernecker & Rainer, in order to expand its robotic portfolio and close its historic gap in machine and factory automation.

The Zurich-based company did not disclose the financial terms of the transaction, but said that the deal had been valued ''in line with'' industrial peers.

Citing a person familiar with the matter, Reuters reported that ABB paid nearly $2 billion in cash.

Post closing, Bernecker & Rainer will become part of ABB's industrial automation division as a new global business unit to be called machine & factory automation, headed by the current managing director, Hans Wimmer.

Founded in 1979 by Erwin Bernecker and Josef Rainer, Bernecker & Rainer employs more than 3,000 people, including about 1,000 R&D and application engineers.

The Eggelsberg, Austria-based company combines state-of-the-art technology with advanced engineering to cater to customers in virtually every industry with complete solutions for machine and factory automation, motion control, HMI and integrated safety technology.

It operates across 70 countries, generating sales of more than $600 million in the $20 billion machine and factory automation market segment.

The co-founders of Bernecker & Rainer, Erwin Bernecker and Josef Rainer, will act as advisors during the integration phase to ensure continuity, ABB said in a statement.

Post closing, Bernecker & Rainer headquarters will become ABB's global centre for machine and factory automation.

Bernecker & Rainer CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer, said, ''This acquisition perfectly delivers on our Next Level strategy. With our unique digital offering and our installed base of more than 70 million connected devices, 70,000 control systems and now more than 3 million automated machines and 27,000 factory installations around the world, we enable our combined global customer base to seize the huge opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.''

Siemens is currently the world's leader in automation technology products, and ABB's acquisition of Bernecker & Rainer will take it to the second spot ahead Emerson, Rockwell Automation and General Electric.

ABB's CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer told CNBC "We are strengthening our number two position with this acquisition, we are closing up to the number one, which is Siemens, and we are increasing the distance from all the other players."