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