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Investors and product sellers look to profit from virus in China

[BEIJING] Investors are piling into shares of some health-product companies they believe could benefit from the new coronavirus in China.

Some mainland pharmaceutical companies which said they've developed kits for detecting the virus saw their stocks jump by the daily limit Tuesday in China as worries build about the ailment's spread. Japanese firms in the protection-gear, air cleaning-equipment and emergency-transport sectors rose more than 10 per cent while Malaysian rubber-glove producers climbed at least 5 per cent.

But many Asian tourism and consumer stocks fell again Tuesday over concern the virus will cause people to cancel trips during the Lunar New Year holiday and stay home during what should be a peak travel-and-spending week for China's billion-strong consumers.

Da An Gene Co, Xilong Scientific Co and Shanghai Kehua Bio-Engineering Co jumped the 10 per cent maximum in China after unveiling their virus-detection kits Monday on investor forums. STAR market-listed Jiangsu Bioperfectus Technologies Co surged that board's 20 per cent limit for a second day. It revealed on Jan 15 the development of its own diagnosis kits.

Many of the firms emphasized the products would have limited impact on near-term revenue, and the kits are being primarily provided to disease-control and health-care centers around China. They've also yet to register the products with the government.

Meanwhile, product resellers are looking to profit from heavy consumer buying of protection goods.

On Taobao, a major Chinese ecommerce website, a 20-pack of 3M Co. masks in November was priced from 178 yuan (S$36). Sellers on Tuesday were charging 960 yuan to 1,100 yuan for the same item.