January 17, 2020 / 9:18 AM / 7 months ago

Chinese property firm Country Garden plans mass production of construction robots

HONG KONG (Reuters) - China’s largest property developer by sales Country Garden is planning to start mass production of construction robots next year to cut costs and raise efficiency, it said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Country Garden Holdings Chairman and Executive Director Yeung Kwok-keung attends a news conference announcing the company's annual results in Hong Kong, China March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

The group, which started investing in robotics research and development in 2018, said it aims to have at least one robot at each of its sites across the nation.

Construction robots are autonomous devices used to repair and build structures, which developers hope can cut costs and improve site safety.

Country Garden's decision to speed up its robotics development came after safety concerns following a series of incidents at its building sites that year. (reut.rs/2TtWilH)

The developer, which said in 2018 it would invest 16 billion yuan ($2.33 billion) in robotics each year for five years, is also developing robots for its agriculture, restaurant and property management business.

Its first robotics restaurant opened in the southern city of Guangzhou early this week.

Company president Bin Mo said at a media event that in the long run, Country Garden is targeting the construction of unmanned farms, and plans to provide a home service robot in each new home it sells.

This year Mo expects the company will buy more land than last in anticipation of more merger and acquisition opportunities. Country Garden’s attributable sales in 2019 grew 10% to 552.2 billion yuan.

He said he expects home prices in China to be flat in the coming year, even though some cities have relaxed a policy of restricting purchases to curb speculation.

Though Chinese property investment grew at a solid pace in 2019, it hit a two-year low in December, adding to recent signs of a slackening in the sector and suggesting Beijing may need to offer more stimulus to stabilize a cooling economy.

Data on Thursday showed China’s new home prices grew at their weakest pace in 17 months last month, with broader curbs on the sector continuing to cool the market.

Reporting by Clare Jim; Editing by Jan Harvey

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