Lucrative opportunities amid crisis

11:00 | 25/03/2020
The pharmaceutical and healthcare industry is creating new medical and biotech billionaires in Vietnam, putting the country on the global map of breakthrough medical advances.    
lucrative opportunities amid crisis
Lucrative opportunities amid crisis

The healthcare and pharmaceutical market saw a big bang last week when Viet A Corporation exported the first batches of COVID-19 test kits to Ukraine, Finland, Iran, and Malaysia, marking an important landmark not only for Viet A but also for the country’s medical science as only handful of nations are currently able to produce the same item.

The move was made around 10 days after announcement of the successful research of real-time RT-PCR kits for the qualitative detection of COVID-19, and the license to begin large-scale production.

As a 100 per cent privately-run business, Viet A is the only company in the country allowed to produce the one-step kit after it and the Military Medical Academy successfully carried out research over two months, with result approval from the national sci-tech council led by the Ministry of Science and Technology on March 3. “We have so far made a few shipments abroad for our products. The kit is considered our most successful result because it comes at the right time,” Phan Quoc Viet, general director of Viet A Corporation, told VIR.

Overnight billionaires

According to Viet, each kit is valued at VND400,000–600,000 ($17-26), while the threshold in the US doubles or even triples. Viet A thus far has received orders from 20 countries, including those in Europe such as Sweden, Finland, Poland, Germany, and Italy, with the highest orders comprising 150,000 test kits.

This means that Viet A will earn a huge profit in the upcoming days, and much more in the near future, driven by growing demands on the worsening situation in the region and within the EU.

At home, the demand for test kits is also significantly rising as a number of Vietnamese living and studying overseas are rushing to come back home. Hanoi is welcoming about 600-800 repatriates, and sometimes up to 1,000 a day.

“It took China 12 weeks to control the pandemic, while it is just two weeks for Hanoi since it had the first new infection on March 6. However, there are signals of rising infected cases in the upcoming time,” said Nguyen Duc Chung, Chairman of Hanoi People’s Committee.

Viet A now has a daily production capacity of 10,000 units. If necessary, it can be increased by three times to meet the local demand as well as for exports and international support.

With chartered capital of VND1 trillion ($43.47 million) and as a pioneer in commercialisation of high-tech research in the healthcare sector, the company is yet to earn much fame in the market, but that could be about to change.

Viet A case is just among many companies well known amid COVID-19, which is creating new medical and biotech billionaires in Vietnam, and globally. In the upcoming time, they will show their faces. For example, private LIFE LAB, in operation since early 2020, is providing healthcare checks and biotech tests with modern medical equipment. With local demand for tests on the rise amid the outbreak, the company expects to realise its dream of becoming a billionaire in the lucrative industry.

According to the latest report on the COVID-19 crisis from BIDV Securities, the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry is one of the beneficiaries. Drug firms trading via the over-the-counter channel and those with a high rate of products related to the outbreak will gain as local demands grow.

Therefore, Viet A and LIFE LAB are not the only participants in the race. Other giant drugmakers such as Dai Uy Pharmaceutical JSC, DHG Pharmaceutical JSC, Domesco, and OPC Pharmaceutical JSC are approaching a golden opportunity to increase production to serve prevention and fight so as to recover from poor performance in 2019.

Together with domestic players, multinational corporations are also earning an advantage to get richer and gain market share, with outstanding names being 3M Vietnam, Novartis, Sanofi, Zuellig Pharma, GSK, and Pfizer, which are the leading producers of medicines and vaccines.

While aviation, tourism, and other sectors globally are being hardest hit by COVID-19, companies in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry are seeing their assets and value swell.

For instance, in China, Allmed Medical Products Co, Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech Co., Hualan Biological Engineering, and Hangzhou Tigermed Consulting Co are getting richer. And in the US, pharma giants like Pfizer, Sanofi, and GlaxoSmithKline plan increasing drug prices in the US in 2020.

They are all among the leaders in the Vietnamese pharmaceutical market with strong expansion plans in the country. In particular, Sanofi Vietnam has three factories in the country, supplying 80 per cent of its products locally.

Outsiders join in

Because of the advantages, the industry is also attracting many outside businesses. Gauze masks and handwash gel are the most attractive areas, following an insufficient supply.

A few days ago, domestically-run Nagakawa Group, famous for refrigeration products, air conditioners, and washing machines, officially joined the race when 100,000 units of anti-bacteria cloth masks produced by KLW Vietnam Garment JSC, one of the group’s units, got certified to go to market.

Nagakawa said that it is capable of producing 200,000-300,000 units a day. This is a wise solution for the group amid the low season of air conditioner consumption.

Similarly, Canifa, one of the country’s biggest fashion stores, has produced 100,000 masks, and sold 10,000 antibacterial cloth masks, since the start of February in Hanoi.

Previously, masks were not a popular product for Canifa, which produced just an extremely small number of masks for its stores.

Amid the outbreak of COVID-19, the company had been facing a challenge because of a big fall in number of customers. This new development is expected to partly help Canifa survive the difficult period.

Elsewhere, other domestic and international giants including electronic giant Foxconn and SAIC-GM-Wuling are also in the start of mask production.

In the field of handwash gel, similar competition is heating up. Last month Vietnam Petroleum Institute (VPI) successfully produced VPI-gel, which is now available.

Also last month, Binh Son Refining and Petrochemical JSC successfully made handwash gel, while Lifebuoy – the world’s top-selling antibacterial soap, also released handwash gel.

By Bich Thuy

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