UBTech’s humanoid robots entered BYD production lines, rumors say

Despite the entrepreneur's ambiguity, his remarks are poised to bolster investor confidence in UBTech's commercial prospects, as they fuel conjecture of a bigger role of its products in automaking, a key consumer of robotics.

UBTech (优必选) has reportedly supplied its robots to China’s largest EV maker BYD to serve its assembly lines, business and financial news portal Jiemian reported over the weekend.

In his response to queries from Jiemian, Zhou Jian, founder and CEO of UBTech, said he did not “dare to” confirm what he said were “market rumors.”

Nonetheless, he admitted that the firm, which went public on Hong Kong Stock Exchange last Friday, ending an 11-year odyssey, was indeed in talks with several NEV manufacturers.

In 2024, there will be more news of the company serving clients in industrial manufacturing, he added.

A bigger role in automaking?

Despite the entrepreneur’s ambiguity, his remarks are poised to bolster investor confidence in UBTech’s commercial prospects, as they fuel conjecture of a bigger role of its products in automaking, a key consumer of robotics.

The Shenzhen-headquartered company’s commercialization efforts have been in the doldrums, undermining its appeal and depressing its valuation.

According to its prospectus, it recorded revenue of 740 million yuan (US$103.6 million), 817 million yuan, and 1 billion yuan in 2020, 2021 and 2022, at a CAGR of 16.7% during this period.

The revenue in the first half of 2023 amounted to 261 million yuan.

Fast-clip growth

The company has yet to be in the black but it highlighted in the prospectus the fast-clip growth of its humanoid robot and related businesses.

It contributed 51.84 million yuan in 2022, jumping 300 times and representing 5.1% of the total revenue.

UBTech said the segment’s gross margin had held steady at above 50% in 2022 and the first half of 2023.

At the same time, however, the leap in humanoid robot sales exactly suggests the firm has a “weak foundation” in monetization.

Broadening the scenarios

Its flagship models Walker, Walker X and Panda Robot are often adopted to perform and amuse viewers at sports extravaganzas, exhibitions or shopping malls, indicating their limited application scenarios.

Therefore, the future of the company is down to whether it is able to push the envelope in commercialization — and fast.

As of December 10, when public data was last available, UBTech boasted more than 900 corporate clients and sold upwards of 760,000 robots.

Its shares began trading on HKEX’s main board on December 29, the last trading day of 2023, under the stock code of 9880. UBTech looked to raise HK$1.309 billion (US$168 million) by selling 11.282 million shares.

At the close of today’s trading session, UBTech shares closed down 1.93% to HK$89.10 apiece, with a market cap of HK$37.23 billion, or US$4.76 billion.

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Ni Tao

Ni Tao is the founder and editor-in-chief of cnrobopedia. Prior to cnrobopedia, he had a full decade of experience with a major state-run English-language newspaper as a tech reporter and opinion writer. He is also a communications specialist, having provided consultancy services to established firms like Siemens, Philips, ABinBev, Diageo, Trip.com Group (Nasdaq: TCOM, HK: 9961), Jianpu Technology (NYSE: JT) and a handful of domestic startups. A graduate of Fudan University, he writes widely about China's business and tech scenes and other topics for global publications including South China Morning Post, SupChina, The Diplomat, CGTN, Banking Technology, among others, and tries to impart his experience to students at Fudan University Journalism School, where he is a part-time lecturer. When he's not writing about robotics, you can expect him to be on his beloved Yanagisawa saxophones, trying to play some jazz riffs, often in vain and occasionally against the protests of an angry neighbor. Get in touch with him by dropping a line at nitao0927@gmail.com.

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