Duopharma expects consumer healthcare segment to drive growth

by NUR HANANI AZMAN/ pic credit: duopharmabiotech.com

DUOPHARMA Biotech Bhd said the suggestion that the pharmaceutical industry is benefitting from the Covid-19 pandemic is not entirely correct.

Its group MD Leonard Ariff Abdul Shatar said the sales of immunity-boosting products, such as vitamins, grew at least about 20% during Movement Control Order (MCO), but sales of medicines suffered as people chose to self medicate.

“Due to Covid-19, there were a lot of consumers who decided to improve their immunity. Thus, the reduced sales of medicine.

“While the general practitioner (GP) clinics and hospitals are allowed to open during the MCO, however, a lot of people have avoided going to the hospital,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

Leonard Ariff said Duopharma also saw government demand for medicine in April soared because they didn’t want patients on longterm medication coming to the hospital too often.

“In that situation, we saw government demand increased and then went down. That’s why I said we benefitted in certain areas, but it’s not for the entire industry.

“Duopharma definitely gained from the higher demand in the vitamin C market, but our medicine’s sales were affected because demand patterns changed during the MCO,” he explained.

On the Covid-19 vaccine development, a global race is underway to develop it. He said the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (Mosti) is ensuring that will have excess drugs.

“To develop the vaccine is one issue, packing it is another. It’s complicated. We are focusing on the packing side. Once a vaccine is identified, Malaysia is ready to import it in bulk and we will do the final packaging before introducing it to the patient,” he said.

Investor interest in Duopharma has increased as the company has been tapped by the government to package the vaccine for use in Malaysia once it has been formulated and supplied.

Mosti Minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar said yesterday in Parliament that the selection of companies to package the Covid-19 vaccine will not be limited to Pharmaniaga Bhd and Duopharma.

Khairy Jamaluddin said the selection process must be done based on the company’s capacity to manufacture local pharmaceutical products that fulfil good manufacturing practices requirements set by the Standard Pharmaceutical Inspection Co-operation Scheme.

Duopharma’s share price closed 1.74% or five sen lower yesterday at RM2.82, bringing its market capitalisation to RM1.93 billion.

Duopharma’s Asean market activities contributed the most to its international business in 2019, charting 21% growth.

Leonard Ariff said the group will spend RM120 million for additional facilities at its manufacturing plants in Klang which are due to be completed by the end of 2021.

Duopharma will introduce a whole new range of variants for its vitamin C products before the end of 2020, he added.

“We foresee 2020 to be challenging, but we still intend to come out with a credible performance compared to last year driven by the consumer healthcare segment. The consumer healthcare business will contribute a larger sum compared to previously. We hope the vitamin C’s sales increase will cover up for the fall in demand for medicines.”

Duopharma ended 2019 on a strong note with net profit increasing 17% to touch RM55.27 million (2018: RM47.64 million) on higher revenue of RM576.46 million (2018: RM498.72 million).

The group posted a net profit of RM13.56 million for the quarter ended March 31, 2020 (1Q20), which slipped 6.25% from RM14.47 million as a result of higher unrealised foreign-exchange losses.

This was despite revenue growing 5.5% year-on-year to RM158.71 million, due to higher demand from the private health sector.