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Japanese tech start-up Uhuru not fazed by Brexit – targets London IPO in October

  • Uhuru to announce intention to float in September before listing on London Stock Exchange a month later
  • Company not daunted by Brexit, sees London as hub for acquiring skilled workers
  • Cloud-based tech helped to deliver $35m revenue in 2018

Japanese company Uhuru is going ahead with plans for an initial public offering (IPO) on the London Stock Exchange in October. Despite the spectre of a no-deal Brexit, the tech start-up is looking to build a greater brand profile, access more risk capital and support expansion.

News of a possible floatation broke earlier this year when Uhuru chief executive, Takashi Sonoda, spoke for the first time about the possibility of a share sale and the appeal of London as a venue. The company recently opened an office in the English capital and wants to expand its workforce there to 100 people.

A Japanese company listing in London will come as a surprise to analysts and investors as Secure Design KK, a biometrics enterprise, was the last to do so more than a decade ago. Japanese airline ANA Holdings opted to delist its London shares months later in 2006.

However, while Brexit may cause chaos for business and finance later this year, if the UK opts to leave the European Union without a deal, Uhuru still believes London will be a better location for finding talented staff and addressing skill shortages compared to Silicon Valley, where competition for employees has reached fever pitch.

Uhuru has made a name for itself both domestically and overseas as a manufacturer of tech and components capable of connecting large scale smart devices to the cloud. These ‘devices’ include heavy machinery and wind turbines. Uhuru also helps companies with data analytics.

The start-up has been backed by SoftBank Corp., which invested 500m yen (£3.5m) last year. Uhuru has also been backed by other big corporations since 2016 with Salesforce.com, NEC and Dentsu among those that have featured in funding rounds. Uhuru has also partnered with chipmaker Arm Holdings and delivers supplies regularly to multinationals in Japan.

Uhuru is now ready to spread its wings and go public after delivering $35m in total revenue in 2018. While the company did not divulge any specific details about raising funds, those close to the matter are confident that it will announce its formal intention to float in London next month.

“The London market is very appealing in terms of the amount of capital that can be obtained and the higher profile would give credibility when dealing with global partners,” Sonoda revealed in an interview earlier this year.

Uhuru, which means ‘freedom’ in the Swahili language, believes there are greater growth opportunities outside Japan where it may struggle to catch the eye of investors and analysts looking to buy into cutting edge tech and smaller enterprises. The company currently employs 280 staff in Japan.

Uhuru’s intentions to list follows a busy 12 months for foreign issuers on markets in London. Analysis by the Financial Times found a third of all proceeds raised on the LSE in 2018 were attributed to groups from outside of the UK. The figure stood at just 14% five years ago.