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China is going to help iRobot sell more robo-vacuums

The company reported more profit than expected.

iRobot

iRobot, maker of the Roomba vacuum, is one of the most successful consumer robotics companies in the United States, and it is growing.

The company said it now expects higher revenue for 2017, partly thanks to a ramp up of sales in China. It now estimates it will generate between $780 million and $790 million in sales this year, up from an earlier estimate of $770 million to $785 million.

Among the reasons for the uptick in projected revenue for 2017 is expected growth in sales in China and Japan, where revenue is anticipated to grow 30 percent in each country. iRobot will be bringing a line of its newer, internet-connected robot vacuums to China in the second quarter of 2017, which is projected to help drive sales.

The company also sees a market for its mopping robots in Japan and China, due to the popularity of hard floor surfaces in homes in both countries. In China, mopping vacuums accounted for 40 percent of iRobot’s revenue in the country in the first quarter of 2017.

iRobot is already doing well in the U.S.

“Our entry-level Roomba was the No. 1 selling vacuum cleaner in the U.S. last year based on total retail dollars spent,” said iRobot CEO Colin Angle on an investor call today.

The robotic vacuum maker reported first-quarter sales of $168.5 million, up 34 percent from last year and beating Wall Street expectations of $154.5 million. Profit was 58 cents a share, surpassing the 27 cents estimate.

The company’s high year-over-year growth can be attributed, in part, to the company’s shedding of its military robotics business in 2016, which negatively impacted revenue during quarter one last year, iRobot shared on its investor call.

Now iRobot is focused on consumer robots, but previously its military division made rovers for the U.S. Armed Forces with a robotic arm attached that could wield a camera or a hand-like gripper. That division was sold for $45 million to Arlington Capital Partners, a private equity firm that specializes in buyouts.

The robotics company has also seen growth abroad. Revenue jumped 30 percent in China year over year compared with the first quarter of last year and also jumped 20 percent in Japan in the same time frame.

Last November, Colin Angle, iRobot CEO, said at a conference in Beijing that robots now account for 20 percent of the global vacuum market and that Roombas account for 70 percent of that market share.

The company has moved aggressively to protect its intellectual property. Earlier this month, iRobot filed complaints against some of the world’s most popular vacuum manufacturers for infringing on its ideas.

Hoover, Black & Decker and Bissell were accused of selling circular robotic vacuums that too closely mimicked iRobot’s technology. The lawsuits claimed that various vacuum makers infringed on a number of iRobot patents, including ones protecting the Roomba’s obstacle-avoidance and rotating-brush systems.


This article originally appeared on Recode.net.