More Smart Energy: Willfar IT to Start Trading on Star Market
COVID-19 and China
Energy can be smarter than ever. Image credit: Anton Belashov/Unsplash

Willfar Information Technology (威胜信息, 688100:SH) received approval from the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) on December 24. It is about to list up to 50 million shares on the Shanghai Stock Exchange's Sci-Tech Innovation Board, raising capital that will be invested in bringing it deeper into the field of the Internet of Things (IoT) and ramping up the company's technological potential.

Meanwhile, a couple of Chinese investment media outlets have labeled the firm 'Hunan province's first' as three other enterprises representing the landlocked province in central China – chemical startup Sokan (松井新材), pharma company Nucien (南新制药) and carbon product developer golden Bo (金博股份) – are still yet to see their application approved.

Willfar markets intelligent energy management systems that include measurement equipment, monitoring terminals, energy storage facilities and data collection mechanisms, spanning several key segments of the public utility area: gas, water and electricity. Recently, it has also been making moves in the Electric Vehicle (EV) domain by designing and empowering charging systems.

Almost doubling its annual operating income and more than doubling the net profit over the past three years, Willfar has also been ballooning in size. For one thing, 2017 was a quite busy year for its HR department: 395 new hires ratcheted the total headcount to 890. At the same time, the number of managing personnel soared threefold. Later on, however, the hiring optimism seemingly ebbed away: according to the most recent version of the prospectus (in Chinese), in June there were only 705 employees.

A cautionary note to sound is that the company's R&D spending has been hovering under the 9% bar – pretty low, taking into account that 324, or nearly 44%, of its 737 employees were involved in innovation-seeking activities as of December 31, 2018. Are researchers underpaid? Maybe. Are the top managers the ones making money?

Not so. The eighteen most highly-ranked employees earned less than 2% of the company's net profit last year. Disproportionally huge bonuses for sales managers or high salaries overall? It is more likely that the firm's 130-strong sales team is skimming the cream off in the nascent Chinese 'Internet of Energy' market. 

There are numerous smart energy startups globally, the long list of which includes Estonian early-stage venture Sympower, Mexican solar lending platform Wirewatt and Sunverge Energy – another solar solution provider, but from the United States. In China, the field has long been monopolized by the state, with limited participation from private businesses. Now, this might be set to change.

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