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Robot maker debuts on HK exchange

By Ma Si | China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-30 10:59

Accompanied by a humanoid robot developed by his company, Zhou Jian, chairman and CEO of UBTech Robotics, rings the opening bell at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Friday. CHINA DAILY

For the first time in its 132-year history, a humanoid robot rang the opening bell at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Friday, floating Shenzhen-based robot developer UBTech Robotics on the bourse for its final initial public offering of 2023.

Said by many to be "China's first humanoid robot stock", UBTech Robotics raised more than HK$1 billion ($130 million) on its first day of trading, as many domestic companies race to commercialize their humanoid robots.

According to a guideline unveiled by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, China aims to build an innovation system for humanoid robots by 2025, with breakthroughs to be made in key technologies to ensure the safe and effective supply of core components.

UBTech Robotics' stock rose 0.94 percent to HK$90.85 on Friday, versus its IPO price of HK$90, giving the company a HK$38 billion market capitalization.

Zhou Jian, chairman and CEO of UBTech Robotics, said, "After going public, we will continue to improve the technological capabilities of humanoid robots, and use innovative technologies to solve major social problems."

Zhou said the company focuses on three major application scenarios for humanoid robots, including industrial manufacturing, commercial services and as home companions.

Chen Jia, a researcher at the International Monetary Institute of the Renmin University of China, said, "Humanoid robots will be an industry field with great growth potential in the next decade, driven by the latest technological advancements in artificial intelligence."

The global humanoid robot market is expected to grow at a rate of 52.8 percent per year from 2023 to 2030, according to market research company ReportLinker.

The China Institute of Electronics also forecast that the domestic scale of the market for humanoid robots is expected to reach about 870 billion yuan ($122 billion) by 2030.

However, currently, humanoid robots are still in their very early stages of development. There are shortcomings in the design of humanoid robots, and their functionalities are not in line with the demand of customers. Technological hurdles also exist, said Chen.

The affordability of such robots is another challenge for current market applications, experts added.

The average selling price of the UBTech Robotics Walker series of humanoid robots is about 6 million yuan, compared to its more basic educational robots, which are priced below 15,000 yuan on average.

Due to its heavy R&D investment, the company is still not profitable. Last year, UBTech Robotics recorded more than 1 billion yuan in revenue, with its R&D spend accounting for 42.5 percent. Last year, the company posted a 987-million-yuan net loss.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology released a guideline in November aimed at promoting the development of the humanoid robotics industry.

The guideline said it aims to cultivate two to three globally influential humanoid robotics enterprises, and a group of specialized small and medium-sized enterprises by 2025.

By 2027, China will see a secure and reliable industrial and supply chain system, and related products will be deeply integrated into the real economy, the guideline said.

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