March 19, 2014 7:00 pm JST

IPO Profile: Robotic suits power Cyberdyne

AKIHIKO NISHIYAMA, Nikkei Tsukuba bureau chief

TOKYO -- Cyberdyne, a Japanese maker of exoskeleton suits, will debut on the Tokyo Stock Exchange's Mothers market on March 26. The company's core business is the development and manufacture of wearable "HAL (Hybrid Assistive Limb)," robotic suits, which can help those who have difficulty using their arms and legs perform many tasks on their own.

     Founded in June 2004, the company began as a venture business at the University of Tsukuba. As Japan ages, robots that can assist with nursing care and other heath care functions could fulfill a growing market need. 

     HAL suits are designed for use in hospitals and nursing homes, and the company relies heavily on the nursing care market for its sales. Cyberdyne began renting the suits to welfare facilities and hospitals in June 2009. As of the end of March 2013, 361 Cyberdyne suits, including medical models, were in operation at 157 facilities. In April 2013, the company established the Suzuka Robocare Center, which opened in September of that year to provide training in the use of its devices.

     Medical-use HAL suits have been approved for clinical use in Europe. In Germany, Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung, an insurer, has included in its coverage medical treatment using HAL suits. Cyberdyne established a subsidiary in Germany and began offering rehabilitation services in August 2013. In Japan, the company started clinical testing for patients suffering from neurological and muscular diseases in March of that year, aiming for approval of HAL suits as medical equipment.

     Cyberdyne is expected to raise about 4.2 billion yen ($40.8 million) through the initial public offering and plans to use the funds for research and development, and to expand its business.

     Yoshiyuki Sankai, the company's president, will retain about 88% of voting rights after the listing through a special class of stock with 10 votes per share in order to prevent the company's HAL suits from being used for military purposes. Sankai has said he will consider a dividend, depending on the company's performance.