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Malaysian Government Cracks Down, Wesfarmers Doubles Down

Wesfarmers has doubled down on its bid to take over rare earth miner Lynas, meeting with Malaysian officials earlier this week.

Australia’s Wesfarmers (ASX:WES,OTC Pink:WFAFF) has doubled down on its bid to take over rare earth miner Lynas (ASX:LYC,OTC Pink:LYSCF), meeting with Malaysian officials earlier this week.

Last week, Wesfarmers announced it had offered to acquire the critical metals miner’s Malaysian and Australian resources and assets for AU$1.5 billion.

One caveat of the billion dollar proposal is that Lynas must ensure that all relevant operating licenses are in place and will remain in good standing for a satisfactory period following the completion of the deal.

A few days after Wesfarmers’ initial offer, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad announced stricter regulations regarding rare earth production in the country, with an extra condition aimed directly at Lynas and its Lynas Advanced Materials Plant.

The harsher guidelines are related to the creation and storage of waste by-products from companies’ operations. The Malaysian government wants Lynas to remove them entirely from the country and develop a more robust initial processing program that cracks and leaches the rare earths offshore.

“What we have done is we have opened up the business to other people,” Mohamad said at a press conference. “There are other companies willing to buy up or somehow or other acquire Lynas. They have given us a promise that, in future, before sending the raw material to Malaysia, they will clean it up first, they will crack it and decontaminate it in some way with regard to radioactivity, so that when the raw material comes here, the volume is less and the waste from that raw material is not dangerous to anybody.

“So, they — this company or even Lynas — they can continue if they promise that the raw material from Australia would be brought here only after, what they call, cracking and cleaning it up.”

The last six months have been challenging for Lynas’ Malaysian operations. In late 2018, the company exhausted its production quotas in the Southeast Asian country and experienced a brief production halt prior to that as a regulatory review was conducted.

For its part, Lynas asserts that it has closely adhered to previous regulatory measures and is working to advance its cracking and leaching operations closer to the resource.

The company has asked for clarification on the prime minister’s comments, issuing a statement on Tuesday (April 9).

“Our preference has always been to add to our Malaysian capability, not replace it. Our Malaysian cracking and leaching operations are performing very well as a result of the intellectual property (IP) our Malaysian team has developed and owned — IP which others cannot use — and the hard work of all the Lynas team. We remain committed to supporting the Malaysian economy and protecting our people’s jobs,” commented Lynas.

Wesfarmers also released a statement in support of open communication between Lynas and the government, and denounced media reports that it has negatively influenced government officials.

“Wesfarmers is disappointed at the mischaracterisation of its discussions with Malaysian Government officials and rejects any inference that these were inappropriate or intended to interfere with Government process,” it stated.

Managing Director Rob Scott said via the release, “We see the Prime Minister’s statements as a positive step towards the resolution of longstanding regulatory and operating uncertainty for Lynas. With greater clarity around licence renewal and Lynas’ plans to address these licence conditions, Wesfarmers remains open to engage with the Lynas Board on our proposal, with a view to progressing a less conditional proposal.”

Demand for rare earths, especially those related to the green energy and electric vehicle sectors, has steadily trended higher, year after year, as a result of the growing adoption of these new technologies.

Lynas is one of the few rare earth miners operating outside of China, and as such it is positioned to profit from the progressive demand for rare earth materials.

Shares of Lynas were down 1.39 percent on Tuesday (April 9), trading at AU$2.13. Wesfarmers was down 0.29 percent to AU$34.14.

Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Resource for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Georgia Williams, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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5 Top ASX Robotics Stocks

Emerging Technology Investing
robotic arm above a globe showing Australia

Australia is hoping to lead the way in robotics, and these are some of the country's top robotics stocks by market cap.

Robotics is a growing area of engineering and science technology. Although Australia is hoping to lead the way in robotics, the number of pure-play ASX-listed robotics companies isn't all that big.

Robotics is a broad term covering everything from design to the construction and operation of robots. It also includes the use of robots in roles normally played by humans, often to reduce errors or speed up processes.

This list includes a wide range of ASX-listed companies that employ robotics. Data was sourced using TradingView's stock screener on November 24, 2021, and stocks are listed in order of market cap from largest to smallest.


1. WiseTech Global (ASX:WTC)

Market cap: AU$17.19 billion; current share price: AU$52.90

Technology powerhouse WiseTech Global provides software solutions to logistics businesses in 130 countries around the world. Its CargoWise platforms are designed using workflows, automation and robotics. The WiseTech Global Group includes more than 30 businesses.

The company has performed positively on the ASX over the past year, with its share price rising about 70 percent since the start of 2021. The company expects to continue this momentum in during its 2022 fiscal year, with projected EBITDA growth of 26 to 38 percent.

2. Altium (ASX:ALU)

Market cap: AU$5.47 billion; current share price: AU$41.67

Altium is a leading global software company that focuses on 3D-printed circuit board (PCB) design. Although seemingly obscure, the PCB design tool Altium Designer is used by robotics companies like Robotics Kanti. The company also sponsors student robotics design competitions that focus on PCB design.

The 2021 fiscal year was strong for Altium, which reported a revenue increase of 6 percent, to AU$180.2 million, and announced a final dividend of AU$0.21 per share.

3. Vection Technologies (ASX:VR1)

Market cap: AU$249.49 million; current share price: AU$0.25

Vection Technologies is a multinational software company with offices in Western Australia, as well as Subiaco and Casalecchio di Reno in Italy. The company uses robotics technology in addition to 3D, virtual reality, augmented reality, industrial internet of things and CAD solutions.

The business is split into two sections: information technology development and outsourced services. The company also collaborates with Autodesk Technology Centres, the Microsoft Mixed Reality Team and Cisco Systems Italy.

4. FBR (ASX:FBR)

Market cap: AU$116.95 million; current share price: AU$0.05

FBR designs, develops and builds robots for the global construction market. The company's dynamically stabilised offerings are made to work outdoors using FBR's Dynamic Stabilisation Technology.

This technology was first used in the Hadrian X, a brick-laying robot that can build structural walls more efficiently than traditional methods and with less waste. The first commercial building to have its structural walls built by Hadrian X in 2020 was completed and tenanted in 2021.

5. Bill Identity (ASX:BID)

Market cap: AU$44.18 million; current share price: AU$0.25

Previously known as BidEnergy, Bill Identity provides a series of bill management solutions leveraged using its Robotic Process Automation (RPA). The RPA system helps clients increase their efficiency and serves customers across Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the US and Europe. The company had a strong year, with total operating revenue growth of 55 percent year-on-year to AU$14.6 million in its 2021 fiscal year.

Don't forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Ronelle Richards, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article

Sydney Opera House at night

Robotics is an area of investing that is growing in Australia ― but is it a sector worth investing in?

The global robotics industry is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 7.8 percent through 2028 according to the Global Industrial Robotics Market Analysis 2020. Robotics is an area of investing that is growing in Australia ― but is it a sector worth investing in?

Broadly speaking, robotics is the design and construction of robots. This can include core automation and production, industrial software, robot technology and integration of robotics. From drones to self-driving cars to toys ― robotics is a growing industry that is beginning to permeate our daily lives.


The distinction between robotics and AI can be a little confusing, but essentially think of robotics like the body and AI like the brain. Both can exist separately, and they are powerful when combined. The goal of a robot is to complete a task faster and more efficiently than a human.

What does the market look like?

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen technology sectors such as robotics accelerate as businesses have faced global challenges. Robotics has been able to help keep spaces safer by replacing humans with robots on factory lines, in eCommerce warehouses or on healthcare frontlines taking temperatures or disinfecting spaces.

What is Australia doing to support the robotics sector?

In early 2020, the Robotics Australia Network was formed to accelerate growth of the domestic robotics industry. The network aims to strengthen global competitiveness and cement Australia as a global leader in robotics.

How does the Australian robotics sector stack up?

According to the International Federation of Robotics, in a ranking of the world's most automated countries it's not even in the top 10. Number one is Singapore, followed by South Korea then Japan.

The investment space for pure robotics companies is relatively small, with greater opportunities to invest in more broader technology, AI and automation stocks.

Who are the big players in robotics stocks?

Robotics stocks in Australia are companies with a strong crossover to other technology sectors like artificial intelligence and virtual reality.

Vection Technologies (ASX:VR1)
Market Cap AU$77.56 million

Vection is a multinational software company with offices in Western Australia as well as Subiaco and Casalecchio di Reno in Italy. The company uses robotics technology as well as 3D, virtual reality, augmented reality, industrial IoT and CAD solutions. The business is split into two sections: IT development and outsourced services. The company also collaborates with Autodesk Technology Centers, the Microsoft Mixed Reality Team and Cisco Systems Italy.

Bill Identity (ASX:BID)

Market Cap AU$52.97 million

Previously known as BidEnergy, Bill Identity is a series of bill management solutions leveraged using robotic process automation, which helps clients increase efficiency. The company serves customers across Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the US and Europe. Bill Identity had a strong year, with total operating revenue growth of 55 percent year-on-year to US$14.6M in FY21.

What are the other ways to invest in robotics?

Another way to get into the robotics sector is investing in robotics exchange traded funds (ETFs), a popular choice that offers exposure to the industry of robotics and artificial intelligence rather than a single company. Two major ETFs in the robotics sector are:

  • BetaShares Global Robotics and Artificial Intelligence ETF (ASX:RBTZ)
  • The ROBO Global Robotics and Automation ETF (ARCA:ROBO)

Don't forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Ronelle Richards, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.