Japanese Ebola-related shares soar as doctor in NYC tests positive for virus

jueves 23 de octubre de 2014 22:52 GYT
 

* Jiji says health minister to convene a medical expert
meeting on Fri
    * Fujifilm says receiving inquiries from overseas govts,
hospitals
    * Other Ebola-related stocks include Azearth, Airtech Japan

    By Ayai Tomisawa
    TOKYO, Oct 24 (Reuters) - Shares of Fujifilm Holdings Corp
 and Japanese makers of air purifiers and protective
clothing soared in Tokyo trading on Friday as the first
confirmed Ebola case in America's biggest city renewed fears
about the spread of the virus. 
    A physician with Doctors Without Borders who returned to New
York City after treating Ebola victims in West Africa has tested
positive for the virus. Ebola has killed nearly 4,900 people,
largely in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. 
    Fujifilm, which has gained on hopes that its influenza drug
will cure Ebola, rose 3.7 percent to 3,632 yen, near its
six-year high of 3,800 yen hit earlier this month. It was the
third-most traded stock by turnover.
    Protecting clothing maker Azearth Corp jumped 16
percent and industrial air purifier maker Airtech Japan Ltd
 soared 17 percent.
    Shigematsu Works Co, which makes health protection
devices, rose 15 percent, while Teikoku Sen-I Co, a
maker of firefighting equipment and other synthetic textile
products, gained 8 percent.
    "'Prop guys' are playing around with these names," said a
senior trader at a foreign brokerage, referring to proprietary
traders at brokerages. He added that such trading may be
short-term.
    The Nikkei share average was steady, up 0.9 percent
to 15,268.81.
    Traders said some investors are speculating which companies
would generate higher returns amid intensifying fears of the
deadly virus. 
    "There is so much uncertainty, but most investors are
composed now," said Jun Yunoki, a strategist at Nomura
Securities. "We believe that medical experts are taking measures
to prevent this from being a pandemic."
    Jiji reported that Japan's welfare minister Yasuhisa
Shiozaki will convene a medical expert conference later in the
day to discuss Fujifilm's Avigan tablets. 
    Fujifilm said earlier this week that it will expand the
production of its Avigan anti-influenza drug to reach more Ebola
patients, while France and Guinea plan to conduct clinical
trials of Avigan 200 mg tablets in mid-November.
    The company said it has enough stockpiles to treat 20,000
flu patients, and has enough ingredients to make tablets to
treat 300,000 flu patients. 
    "We are receiving inquiries from governments and
institutions in the world," a spokesman told Reuters, adding
that it has received calls from about 20 such institutions so
far about Avigan. 
    Fujifilm, whose products range from digital cameras to
medical equipment such as endoscopes, said its drug business
accounts for a small portion of its sales.
    But traders said that even though the drug business'
contribution to the company's bottomline is limited, the firm
may benefit from the publicity.
    "Investors have chased this stock higher as there is more
risk of not holding the stock than holding a lot," said a fund
manager at a Japanese asset management firm. "The fact that the
company has made an early entry to develop drugs seen effective
to one of the most infectious diseases in the world is
important."
    He also said if more governments decide to stockpile the
drug, Fujifilm may start seeing profits contributing to its
earnings. 

 (Editing by Ryan Woo)