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The Coronavirus Is Creating New Medical and Biotech Billionaires

Tycoons in China's medical and biotech industries have added more than $17 billion in stake value, even as global markets plunged.

(Bloomberg) -- Gauze balls. Gauze dressing. X-ray gauze swabs. Gauze drain sponges.

Allmed Medical Products Co. makes just about any kind of gauze product imaginable. It also produces surgical masks, and its export-quality products are much sought-after in China these days.

Chairman Cui Jinhai, who founded the company based in Hubei province at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, is leading the way among tycoons in China’s medical and biotech industries who have added more $17 billion in stake value even as global markets plunge, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Allmed shares have more than doubled this year, turning Cui into a billionaire.

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to more than 130,000 confirmed cases and pushed the global economy toward recession, yet it’s driving a jump in sales at Asian producers of everything from rapid-test kits to face masks. The demand surge has also reached the West, boosting shares of San Francisco-based Vir Biotechnology Inc., which is collaborating with the National Institutes of Health on coronavirus research. The stock surged 11% Thursday and has almost tripled in 2020.

The rise of stocks like Allmed may be a sign that investors desperate to find a bright spot in a gloomy global economy see no end in sight for the pandemic, with sustained demand for products used in fighting or treating the outbreak, said Nikkie Lu, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst. Allmed’s surge was driven by a jump in domestic sales as Chinese consumers and hospitals snapped up the company’s export-quality products. Allmed didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

“It may be that the pandemic just started,” Lu said.

Dreary Market

Shares of Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech Co., a developer of rapid-test kits and antibody tests, have gained more than 40% this year, making president Li Wenmei and his wife Wang Jihua a billionaire couple. Wang is the chairman.

The oasis in an otherwise dreary market has been a boon for pharmaceutical billionaires in Asia, including former doctor An Kang, the chairman and biggest shareholder of Hualan Biological Engineering, which made vaccines for the H1N1 flu virus and is doing medical research on Covid-19.

Hangzhou Tigermed Consulting Co., founded by Oxford-educated billionaire Ye Xiaoping, has climbed 8% this year as the pharma research group was approved by Chinese authorities for a clinical trial of Remdesivir, a novel anti-viral drug.

--With assistance from Yoojung Lee.

To contact the reporters on this story:
Blake Schmidt in Hong Kong at [email protected];
Venus Feng in Hong Kong at [email protected];
Pei Yi Mak in Singapore at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Pierre Paulden at [email protected]
Jodi Schneider

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