Health Conditions

Gauze, test kits, viral drugs: As coronavirus savages markets, it also mints billionaires

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 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 wealth boom has spread across Asia, from producers of rapid-test kits to vaccine developers. It also has 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{ce8ce7cc98bffdc4302011057a79600ea02c464c5536f1477c12acdb8bd79c00} Thursday and 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.

“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{ce8ce7cc98bffdc4302011057a79600ea02c464c5536f1477c12acdb8bd79c00} 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{ce8ce7cc98bffdc4302011057a79600ea02c464c5536f1477c12acdb8bd79c00} this year as the pharma research group was approved by Chinese authorities for a clinical trial of Remdesivir, a novel anti-viral drug.

More coronavirus coverage from Fortune:

—How coronavirus is affecting the global concert industry
Politicians around the world are going into quarantine
—Some of the most extreme ways companies are combating coronavirus
—How Europe is adapting to the coronavirus outbreak
—What Xi Jinping’s visit to Wuhan says about China’s coronavirus recovery
Conferences go online amid coronavirus fears—minus the hallway schmoozing
—Coronavirus may not be all bad for tech. Consider the “stay at home” stocks

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