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Dyson, the British company famous for its bagless vacuum cleaners and bladeless fans, is planning to ramp up investment into new longer-lasting batteries after reporting a 20% rise in profits thanks to a tripling of revenues in China.
Dyson said its growth in 2015 was driven by battery-powered purifiers, fans and vacuum cleaners, with Asia overtaking Europe to become its biggest market.
Sales of battery-driven vacuum cleaners grew 66% in 2015 and the company now accounts for a quarter of this market around the world. Cordless models such as the V6 have become its top-selling vacuum cleaners, rather than the traditional corded upright versions.
The company, which is owned by founder Sir James Dyson and his family, plans to invest £1bn in battery technology over the next five years. Last year it acquired a University of Michigan spin-off that has developed a new type of battery, which promises to store twice as much energy as today’s liquid-based lithium batteries.
Dyson launched 17 new products last year and sold 10m machines, up 25% from 2014. The Dyson 360 Eye robot vacuum cleaner, which uses a panoramic camera lens on top of the machine to map its way around the house, went on sale in Japan for around 138,000 yen (£850) and will be rolled out in other countries this summer.
China became the firm’s fastest-growing major market despite the country’s economic malaise, with revenues up 222% last year. The company has been trading there for three years and is enjoying strong demand for its vacuum cleaners and humidifiers.
Asia Pacific saw volume growth of 70% after big advances in Korea and Taiwan. Japan is the company’s second-biggest market by sales and profits, behind only the US. The country is Dyson’s oldest market – the first Dyson vacuums were sold there rather than in the UK.
The cordless business doubled in Britain and Ireland, where overall sales volumes grew 23%, and in continental Europe, where Dyson became market leader in cordless vacuums and posted 38% growth. More than 90% of its products are sold outside the UK, in 72 countries.
The company said that Europe was a “very valuable market” but declined to comment about the EU referendum in June.
Max Conze, chief executive, said: “2015 was a year of exceptional growth across Asia and Europe, which proves that people across the world want better technology. 2016 is gearing up to be a transformational one as we launch more exciting and more intelligent proprietary technology.”
The company’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation rose 19% to £448m in 2015, with revenues up 26% to £1.74bn.
Dyson now employs 7,004 people worldwide, including 2,084 engineers. All of its research and development is done in Malmesbury in Wiltshire, where it wants to double the number of engineers it employs.
The company plans to launch 10 new products in the next few months. After spending £206m on product development in 2015, it will raise R&D spending to £5m a week this year and has earmarked a further £100m for external technology investments over the next three years.
James Dyson, the founder, said: “By ramping up our investment in technology and expanding research and development we are developing machines that perform better and disrupt the status quo. We put faith in young bright minds – our average age [of engineers] is 26.”