China’s top 10 appliance makers, which are also the world’s largest by market capitalisation, are a highly concentrated lot.

The three largest manufacturers – Midea Group, Gree Electric Appliances and Haier Smart Home – make up 80 per cent of the combined value of the top 10, while four of the 10 largest are based in southern China’s Greater Bay Area, according to the Hurun China Top 10 Most Valuable Electrical Appliance Companies 2020 report.

“China’s electrical appliance industry has already become a mature industry,” said Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher of the privately held Hurun Report. “The influence of online channels on the electrical appliance industry is continuously expanding.”

The report underscores the role of Guangdong province as China’s manufacturing hub, where everything from high-tech gadgets to household appliances are made. The largest Chinese appliance makers are involved in the production of so-called White Goods such as air conditioners, refrigerators, laundry machines, and kitchen appliances, according to the report.

Some of these appliance makers are expanding upwards in the value chain to smarter devices and products, including robotics, mutually connected objects that make use of artificial intelligence, augmented reality and 5G telecommunications. In so doing, they are leading the transformation of Chinese manufacturing under the Made in China 2025 industrial master plan.

“5G, the Internet of Things and big data have brought tremendous development to the prospects of the electrical appliance industry,” Hoogewerf said.

An industrial robot developed by Gree Electric. Photo: HANDOUT

Midea, best known as the air-conditioner maker and owner of German robotics firm Kuka, is the world’s largest appliance maker, was recently valued at 527 billion yuan (US$78 billion), almost four times larger than the Japanese company Panasonic Corporation.

“Midea is not only China’s most valuable electrical appliance company, but has also become the world’s most valuable electrical appliance company,” said Hoogewerf.

Midea’s market value has grown 3.6 times over the past five years, according to the report. Founded in 1968 in Foshan, the company produces appliances from air conditioners to laundry machines, smart logistics as well as robotics and industrial automation.

Kuka’s industrial robots at the Hannover Messe in Germany on 8 April 2013. Midea bought Kuka in 2016. Photo: DPA

It became a majority shareholder of one of the world’s leading manufacturers of robotic systems Kuka Robotics with a 95 per cent stake in 2016.

The group, founded by the reclusive billionaire He Xiangjian, hires around 150,000 employees, with over 200 subsidiaries and a presence in over 200 countries and regions.

Gree, which started also as a maker of air conditioners, was ranked second, with 321 billion yuan in value. Founded in 1996 in Zhuhai, the company started off by assembling residential air conditioners before expanding its business to other home appliances such as refrigerators, as well as other high-end technology equipment. It started its smartphone business in 2015.

A billboard for a Haier air conditioner at an undisclosed location in China during the 2000s. Photo:

Haier Smart Home, a subsidiary of Haier Group, ranked third with a market value of 186 billion yuan. Haier Smart Home announced plans to privatise Haier Electronics Group with a US$3.42 billion offer in July.

Four of the top 10 electrical appliance companies on the list were from the Greater Bay Area – three hailed from Foshan while one was founded in Zhuhai.

Four from Pearl River Delta region, with two from Shanghai, one from Hangzhou and Suzhou. Qingdao and Beijing each had one company.

Online sales accounted for around 40 per cent of China’s electrical appliance market which is worth nearly 900 billion yuan, and this proportion continues to grow, he added.

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