Chinese Vending Machine Firm UBOX Applies for Hong Kong IPO

According to the official website of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEx), Beijing UBOX Online Technology Corp. (UBOX), a Chinese unmanned retail operator, formally submitted an application for a public listing on May 27, with Goldman Sachs, China Securities International and Huatai International serving as joint sponsors.

Founded in 2011, UBOX has received investment from Ant Group, Primavera Capital Group, CCB International, Guoxin Energy Fund, Haier Group and other institutions.

As of December 31, 2021, UBOX had over 102,700 points of sale (POSs) for vending machines across China, 81.3% of which were concentrated in tier-one or tier-two cities. According to Frost & Sullivan, UBOX has the largest vending machine network in China.

UBOX has established an extensive POS network covering a wide range of core consumption scenarios, including schools, factories, office premises, public venues and transportation hubs, and it has recently expanded into new fields such as restaurants. According to Frost & Sullivan, as of December 31, 2021, the company’s POS network covered 55% of China’s top 40 airports by passenger traffic, 22% of all universities and college campuses, and 34% of the top 80 shopping malls in terms of sales.

Supply chain capabilities are also a key competitive dimension of unmanned retail service providers. As of December 31, 2021, UBOX operated 101 warehouses and 305 sorting centers, covering a total of 85,139 UBOX POSs, and it had entered into strategic cooperation with 13 well-known international FMCG brands.

In 2021, the company introduced a high-density and low-inventory “small warehouse” model to provide more efficient and flexible services to its merchandise wholesale customers, helping them reduce warehousing costs.

From 2019 to 2021, UBOX’s revenues were 2.727 billion yuan ($410.1 million), 1.902 billion yuan and 2.676 billion yuan respectively. In 2019, UBOX’s net profit was 40 million yuan. The net losses in 2020 and 2021 were 1.184 billion yuan and 188 million yuan respectively, while adjusted net losses were 815 million yuan and 170 million yuan respectively.

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According to Frost & Sullivan, as of December 31, 2021, vending machines in China covered only 7.6% of the country’s potentially available offline sites, although the penetration rate is expected to increase to 19.5% by 2026. Accordingly, the size of China’s vending machine retail market is expected to grow from 27.1 billion yuan in 2021 to 79.9 billion yuan in 2026, with a CAGR of 24.0%.