Jieka, Yuejiang, and Aobo hit the IPO, and collaborative robots start a price war
Driven by the wave of global intelligence, the field of robotics seems to be heating up again. In addition to UBTECH, which has just submitted a prospectus to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, the collaborative robot track is also ushering in the first wave of “listing tide”.
According to 36 Krypton reports, Aobo, which ranks among the top three in terms of shipments, plans to be listed on the Science and Technology Innovation Board in the third quarter of this year, and Huatai United Securities has been identified as the listing guidance agency.
Prior to this, AUBO’s peers, Jieka and Yuejiang, had already started the IPO process: in December 2022, Jieka signed a listing guidance agreement with Guotai Junan Securities, and in January 2023, Yuejiang signed a listing guidance agreement with CICC.
Jieka, Yuejiang and Aobo are known as the “Three Heroes of Collaborative Robots“, and they are all relatively similar in terms of development, financing or listing rhythm. According to incomplete statistics, since 2020, there have been 21 investment and financing events in the field of collaborative robots with a financing amount exceeding 100 million yuan. Complete two or even three rounds of financing.
How is the current development of the collaborative Robot Industry? Why are the “Three Heroes” vying to go public? What difficulties do domestic manufacturers still have to overcome?
1. CR8 market share exceeds 80%
Before 1996, there was no concept of collaborative robots in the world.
In 1996, the concept of collaborative robots was first proposed by Professors J.Edward Colgate and Michael Peshkin. In the following 12 years, collaborative robots existed more in the human brain in the form of concepts.
Until 2008, Universal Robots (Denmark) Robots) launched the first collaborative robot UR5, marking the emergence of a truly collaborative robot worldwide.
(Picture / Network)
Compared with traditional Industrial robots, collaborative robots are safer, more flexible, and more flexible. They can not only meet the flexible production needs of enterprises, but also solve the problems of large investment scale, long return on investment period, and limited flexibility of traditional industrial robots.
Take the 3C electronics industry as an example. In the early stage of production and assembly, due to the large variety of 3C electronic products and cumbersome assembly steps, the production environment is generally unstructured. Traditional industrial robots are not flexible enough and the cost of secondary deployment is too high to meet the requirements. The need for quick changeover.
The collaborative robot has the advantages of simple programming and rapid deployment, and can easily switch production lines according to needs to improve production efficiency.
In 2010, the global collaborative robot industry began to enter the development track, and traditional Industrial Robot giants and many entrepreneurial enterprises poured in.
However, my country’s collaborative robot industry did not officially start until 2015, and Jieka (founded in July 2014), Aobo (founded in January 2015), and Yuejiang (founded in July 2015) also entered the game one after another. With the influx of new companies and the continuous release of downstream demand, the popularity of the domestic collaborative robot industry continues to rise, and many capitals have also begun to pay attention to this track.
According to incomplete statistics from the High-tech Robotics Industry Research Institute (GGII), from 2015 to 2021, there were 58 financing incidents in the domestic collaborative robot industry. Among them, in 2021, there were 13 financing incidents in the industry. 1, Yuejiang 1, the rounds are all after the B round), the total financing amounted to 5.028 billion yuan, a record high.
It is worth mentioning that investors who have entered the field of collaborative robots include Sequoia Capital, Hillhouse Ventures, Matrix Partners China, GSR Ventures, Shunwei Capital, CICC Capital, Lenovo Ventures, etc. These well-known institutions have invested heavily It also boosted the confidence of the industry to a certain extent. After all, the return on investment cycle of this track is relatively long, and the help of capital is indispensable.
From 2008 when the world’s first collaborative robot was launched to the present, although the collaborative robot industry has developed for more than ten years, according to Yiou analyst Liu Minhao, there is still a large room for growth in the development of the domestic collaborative robot industry.
Liu Minhao told “Bullet Finance” that collaborative robots are relatively widely used in industrial fields such as 3C electronics, automobiles and metal manufacturing. However, collaborative robot manufacturers are still in their infancy for the expansion of service, medical and many other industries.
“So, from the perspective of opening up all future scenarios, the collaborative robot industry can only be regarded as the middle and early stage of development.” Liu Minhao analyzed. It should be pointed out that although the development of China’s collaborative robot industry is relatively early, its market concentration is not low.
By calculating the industry concentration index, it can be found that from 2019 to 2020, the market shares of CR4 (ie, the top four) and CR8 (ie, the top eight) in the domestic collaborative robot industry have increased. From 2020 to 2021, the CR4 market share will decline slightly, from 65% to 63%, while the CR8 market share will rise slightly from 83% to 84%.
“That is to say, only 8 companies currently occupy more than 80% of the entire domestic collaborative robot market, and the industry is moving towards concentration.” Liu Minhao said.
2. Behind the sprint of domestic manufacturers to IPO
Under the above-mentioned market structure, some domestic collaborative robot companies have launched the listing process one after another.
In December last year, Jieka Robot signed a listing counseling agreement with Guotai Junan Securities; in January this year, Yuejiang Technology signed a listing counseling agreement with CICC; according to 36 Krypton reports, AUBO plans to be listed on the Science and Technology Innovation Board in the third quarter of this year. At present, Huatai United Securities has been identified as the listing counseling institution.
So, what is the reason why collaborative robot companies such as Jieka, Yuejiang, and Aobo have launched the IPO process? “Bullet Finance” believes that there are two main reasons: First, it may be related to the urgent need of manufacturers to supplement cash flow.
Zhang Bing, who has been following the collaborative robot industry for a long time, told Bullet Finance that the initial research and development costs of collaborative robots are relatively high, especially for non-standard scenarios, which require more research and development investment. “The annual salary of a relatively mature collaborative robot algorithm engineer in an enterprise needs to be at least 500,000 yuan per year,” he said.
In addition, public information shows that in 2019, Jika encountered a shortage of funds. At that time, its collaborative robot products required a lot of research and development expenses.
According to data from Debon Securities, in terms of market share, in 2020, in addition to the foreign-funded brand UR, Aobo and Jieka ranked first and second among domestic brands, accounting for 43% of the market.
(Picture / Debon Securities (Market Structure of Domestic Collaborative Robots in 2020))
According to 36 Krypton’s previous reports, Aobo Smart’s revenue in 2021 will reach 350 million yuan, of which the overall shipments in industrial scenarios will reach 8,000 units, mainly distributed in automotive electronics. As a leading foreign brand in the industry, Universal Robots has a total installed capacity of more than 50,000 units worldwide and a total revenue of US$311 million in 2021.
It can be seen that AUBO, the domestic brand with the largest market share, still has a certain gap with foreign brands in terms of revenue and installed capacity, and the impact of IPO will undoubtedly bring new benefits to the company’s research and development, brand promotion, and market expansion. to benefit.
In addition, according to Zhang Bing, at present, all collaborative robot companies are still in a critical period of rushing to seize market share. In order to compete for market share, collaborative robot manufacturers have adopted a price war, that is, to compete at low prices.
In February of this year, Wang Guangneng, CEO of Han’s Robotics, said to the outside world that behind the rapid development of collaborative robots, there are also hidden worries. Homogenization and price wars have become lingering problems for many robot manufacturers. “Essentially speaking, this is because the company has not mastered the core key technologies and lacks a technical moat.”
For most collaborative robot manufacturers, price wars do more harm than good, and it is very likely that they will lower the company’s gross profit margin, which in turn will put pressure on cash flow.
In this case, entering the secondary market for financing is one of the effective ways for collaborative robot manufacturers to supplement their working capital.
The second reason why the “Three Heroes” want to hit the IPO this year may be related to the need for some old shareholders of the company to withdraw. According to Qichacha data, whether it is Jieka, Yuejiang, or Aobo, their first financing occurred 8 years ago, and it has been more than 7 years since they received their first financing in 2015.
And we know that the fund investment cycle in the primary market is usually 5+2, that is, “invest in 5 years and exit in 2 years”. Therefore, collaborative robot manufacturers such as Jieka, Yuejiang, and Aobo have launched the listing process one after another, and the possibility that their old shareholders are seeking to withdraw cannot be ruled out.
From an objective point of view, the listing of enterprises is conducive to expanding operations, innovating technology, and enhancing brand awareness. If the three collaborative robots can successfully IPO, it will be beneficial to the entire industry.
But at the same time, we must also clearly realize that there are still some problems that cannot be ignored behind the collective sprint of collaborative robot manufacturers such as Jieka, Yuejiang, and Aobo.
3. Many difficulties await
Compared with traditional industrial robots with a development history of more than 60 years, collaborative robots are undoubtedly “newcomers” who have just entered the market. The current market penetration rate is not high, which also makes it difficult for them to expand into new scenarios.
Liu Minhao told “Bullet Finance” that the expansion of a new scene requires more joint promotion of policies, social macro, laws and regulations. For example, if a collaborative robot is to be applied to the production scene in the food and beverage field, whether its sanitation meets the requirements, what links are allowed to be used, etc., the current relevant laws and regulations seem to be blank.
Another example is that collaborative robots are to be applied in surgical scenarios in the medical field, such as delivering knives to doctors, helping doctors to perform simple disinfection and suturing, etc. As a new medical device, what level should it reach, first, second or third level, Relevant standards need to be promoted by the government.
“If there is no promotion of relevant policies, social macro, laws and regulations, even if manufacturers make collaborative robots, they may not be able to be applied to new scenarios in the end.” Liu Minhao said.
Moreover, even though collaborative robot manufacturers have completed the expansion of new scenarios, due to the lack of scenarios that can be applied on a large scale, it is difficult to support a large enough market size.
Taking the industrial field as an example, due to the pursuit of safety and cooperation, the load, speed, and accuracy of collaborative robots are all reduced, which is precisely the field that robots are good at, and this is also the expectation of people using robots. Such collaborative robots can only Applied to some manufacturing lines with relatively low requirements on load, speed and precision, as a supplement to the current traditional industrial robots, it is difficult to expand independently.
Another example is in the field of services. In recent years, some companies have launched collaborative robots for cooking, meal delivery, making milk tea, making coffee, etc., but first, the application scenarios that can replace human labor are limited. Not cost-effective, making it difficult to promote on a large scale.
(Picture / Network)
Therefore, collaborative robot companies can only struggle between various market segments and design different solutions for different scenarios.
This will lead to two major development difficulties: first, there are few application scenarios, and the cost of collaborative robots is high; second, the market segments are scattered, and most of them are long-tail customers, the promotion cost is high and the effect is slow.
Like many emerging industries, as more and more players enter the game, the problem of product homogeneity has always plagued the entire collaborative robot industry.
According to “Bullet Finance”, the collaborative robots “developed” by most companies are still based on the products developed by Universal Robots as the main imitation objects.
(Picture / Universal Robots official website)
Specifically, one is the homogenization of technology. Compared with traditional industrial robots, the technical barriers of collaborative robots are not high, and there is no significant difference in technology between each company. “Technologies such as robot algorithms and force control are still relatively lacking and need to be developed urgently.” Liu Minhao said.
The second is the homogenization of scenes. According to Liu Minhao, collaborative robot manufacturers pay more attention to the fields of 3C electronics, automobile manufacturing, and metal materials, but it is still difficult for them to get through the scenarios in commercial, medical and other fields.
“Everyone matches the same scenarios and solutions, and everyone is at a loss for some innovative scenarios,” he said.
The homogeneity of the products of collaborative robot manufacturers may be related to the high cost of trial and error, which leads to the lack of spirit of innovation and experimentation in many enterprises.
More importantly, the biggest impact of homogeneous competition is market disorder. Lowering prices has become the “only way” for companies to win, and “price wars” are undoubtedly not conducive to the long-term development of companies and industries.
It is also worth noting that how to reduce costs has become a difficulty for collaborative robot manufacturers.
As we all know, due to its own characteristics, collaborative robots need to do a good job in force control technology and safety performance, and the hardware cost will increase accordingly. However, the target customers of collaborative robots are mainly small and medium-sized enterprises, and they are often more sensitive to prices. The price is enough to make it prohibitive.
As a result, it is difficult for collaborative robots to be applied on a large scale, which in turn makes it difficult to reduce costs, eventually forming a vicious circle. Finally, collaborative robot manufacturers need to think deeply about and grasp the real needs of industry customers. After all, if an enterprise wants to find an application scenario suitable for collaborative robots, it needs to start with its safety, flexibility, ease of use, collaboration, and perception. The more scenarios that require these features, the more suitable for collaborative robots.
It is true that collaborative robot companies face many challenges, but in Liu Minhao’s view, there are still great opportunities for new entrants in the industry.
Because there are still blank scenarios in commercial, medical and other fields, each segment can become an engine of industry growth. “Even, there is still considerable room for the penetration of collaborative robots in the industrial field.”
However, Liu Minhao also pointed out that latecomers entering the collaborative robot industry are also full of risks. New entrants not only have to face competition from existing collaborative robot companies, but also face challenges from traditional industrial robot manufacturers. “This is a great test of the resource capabilities of new players.”
In recent years, the continuous influx of new players and the continuous release of downstream demand have made the domestic collaborative robot industry continue to rise in popularity and attracted massive investment from Sequoia, Hillhouse, Matrix Partners and many other star capital.
Today, as enterprises such as Jieka, Yuejiang and Aobo successively hit the IPO, a number of listed companies may usher in the future.
However, it is not easy to expand new scenarios, the increasing homogeneity and the difficulty in reducing costs mean that collaborative robot manufacturers still have a long way to go, and the sprint IPO is just the beginning. *Zhang Bing is a pseudonym in this article. The title picture in the article comes from: Jieka official website.
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