Cyberdyne, a Japanese maker of exoskeletons, had a strong debut today on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s Mothers market for startups. The stock started trading at 8,510 yen, 2.3 times its initial public offering (IPO) price of 3,700 yen, before closing at 9,600 yen.
Cyberdyne, a 2013 RBR50 company based in Tsukuba, provided 10.85 million shares, and the stock price reached a high of 10,010 yen before closing the day up 159 percent.
Bloomberg says it?s the second-best opening performance among Japan IPOs in 2014.
All this happened despite Cyberdyne?s latest earnings report for the nine-month period to December that showed a net loss of 450 million yen ($4.4 million) on sales of 269 million yen. Cyberdyne is forecasting a full-year net loss of 659 million yen on sales of 469 million yen.
“Today we listed onto the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s Mothers’ market … We appreciate your additional guidance and encouragement,” Cyberdyne says in a statement.
Cyberdyne plans to expand the reach of its HAL (Hybrid Assistive Limb) exoskeleton globally. Cyberdyne is presently used in 170 hospitals and nursing homes across Japan, and it costs about 1.8 million yen ($17,700) annually to lease each suit. Cyberdyne isn?t currently subsidized by government health insurance in Japan, but it plans to seek approval for as a medical device in its home market.
Cyberdyne?s exoskeleton has been approved for use as a medical device in Europe, and it may soon seek clearance to sell the product in the U.S.
Mieko Kawakami, who suffers from gait disorder due to partial paralysis, walks after being fitted with Cyberdyne’s HAL exoskeleton. Photo: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg
?The current insurance system will collapse if cost to care for elderly people continues to rise,? Hirohisa Hirukawa, director of the Intelligent System Research unit at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, tells Bloomberg. ?Japan needs to change rules, find equipment to save labor and to care for elderly people more efficiently.?
Cyberdyne president Yoshiyuki Sankai tells Nikkei he wants to prevent the HAL exoskeletons from being used for military applications. To do this, he plans to retain about 88 percent of voting rights after the IPO through a special class of stock that has 10 votes per share.
Competition Heats Up
Cyberdyne appears to have timed its IPO well, as the exoskeleton market is booming. And by 2060, 40 percent of Japan?s population will consist of people older than 65.
?The demand for rehabilitation robots is very high as societies around the world are aging,? Mitsushige Akino, chief fund manager at Ichiyoshi Investment Management Co. in Tokyo, tells Bloomberg.
According to a study from ResearchMoz called ?Worldwide Rehabilitation Robots, Active Prostheses, and Exoskeletons Market 2014 Shares, Strategies, and Forecasts 2020,? the rehabilitation robot market is expected to grow from $43.3 million to $1.8 billion by 2020.
A growing market, of course, invites more players to the game, and there are more exoskeleton companies now than ever. RBR50 company Ekso Bionics went public in January 2014 and raised $20.6 million. The Richmond, Calif.-based company?s Ekso wearable robot is used for the rehabilitation of individuals with lower extremity weakness, paralysis or hemiparesis (weakness on one side of the body).
Ekso has about 60 devices in use at 50 centers and is available in North America, South Africa, Europe and South America. Ekso says it?s planning to expand into Asian markets within the next 18 months. Ekso says it has approval from the FDA as long as a certified physical therapist is present.
Other exoskeleton players include Rex Bionics (New Zealand) and Parker/Hannifin (Cleveland), as well as newcomers springing up in Japan. Yaskawa recently partnered with Israel?s Argo Medical Technologies and plans to start selling Argo?s ReWalk exoskeletons in Japan in 2015 after tests.
And rival Japanese carmakers are also getting in on the action. Toyota is testing robots to help paralyzed patients walk, while Honda is developing a device to help stroke and orthopedic patients lengthen their strides while walking.