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Business

Japan's Cyberdyne sees US as path to profit

TOKYO -- Japanese robot maker Cyberdyne became somewhat of an investor darling after it debuted on the Tokyo Stock Exchange's Mothers market in March last year. Its products for nursing care and medical purposes marked the company as an innovator.

     But since last summer, its share price has been stuck in a holding pattern around 3,000 yen.

     "We are hesitant to buy [Cyberdyne's shares] unless we can see some clues about how it plans to expand its business," said Hidemaru Yamaguchi at Citigroup Global Markets Japan.

     Cyberdyne has received a lot of attention for its HAL wearable robot. Functioning like an exoskeleton, the device helps patients move their limbs by reading their brain signals.

     For the fiscal year ending this month, the company expects a net loss of 576 million yen ($4.8 million) despite a 60% year-on-year increase in sales to 750 million yen. Though that loss would be 110 million yen smaller than the previous year's figure, heavy research and development costs are still eclipsing revenue.

     The HAL robot comes in two basis types -- one for welfare purposes, such as for training limbs to move, and an enhanced version for medical purposes.

Where the money is     

A significant chunk of Cyberdyne's sales come from domestic rentals of the HAL suit for welfare purposes. But expanding sales of the highly profitable medical-use model holds the key to better earnings.

     Aware of this, Cyberdyne is stepping up efforts to cultivate developed markets. Its HAL robots were certified as a medical device in Europe in June 2013. And President Yoshiyuki Sankai said the company "is likely to obtain U.S. certification within the year."

     If that were to happen, unlocking the door to a huge medical equipment market, the business "will become profitable within one or two years," said Sankai. The company is also preparing to seek medical-device status for the robot in Japan.

     But as its slow start in Europe shows, certification does not necessarily lead to higher sales.

(Nikkei)

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