2020 has truly started off the new decade on the wrong foot. From trending #WW3 hashtags in early January following rising tensions between the US and Iran, to a plane crash rising from said conflict, all while a wildfire has razed millions of acres of land in Australia.
As if all of this weren’t enough, the world has had to contend with a new Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) disease outbreak. With 31,479 infected worldwide and a total of 636 dead (all in China except 2), the world has been breaking out in a cold sweat.
Wuhan, the Chinese city of origin of the disease, has been under lockdown, as have other cities, ever since the 23rd of January. Originally, the Coronavirus outbreak was officially acknowledged in the 2nd week of January. Infections in the city have been doubling every four days, the New York Times reports, as many of the cities’ streets train stations, roads and shops have become ghost towns, while hospitals overflow with people and supermarket shelves have been emptied.
Throughout all this chaos and the enforced lockdown, some individuals – and companies – have benefitted. Here are some of them.
Protective gear and medical product sellers – and resellers- see a boom in sales
With the method of transmission of the virus being very similar to the way other respiratory diseases spread, like the common flu, many of the Chinese and other people worldwide are rushing to buy surgical masks and rubber gloves for everyday use. In fact, in Wuhan, face masks were made mandatory in late January. This has led to complete buyouts at pharmacies, supermarkets, online retailers, and other stores, even outside China. Drug stores in Tokyo have stocked up on masks, only to sell out within hours of opening, Vox reports. There has also been a surge in hand sanitizer sales – after all, hand hygiene is seen as key to decreasing infection rates.
Some profiteers are even stocking up on these supplies just to sell them later for a higher price, capitalizing on the supply shortage. As a result, some businesses like Chinese online giant Taobao have warned sellers using its platform not to profit from the outbreak by raising prices, as per the BBC.
The big Chinese remote working experiment
When the government declares city-wide lockdown, what are you supposed to do as a business owner exactly? Why, work from home, of course!
As many companies in China have realized, even if the world stops for a disease outbreak, business does not. Everything from design agencies, ad agencies, to tech firms and more have taken to remote working. And wouldn’t you know, there are some who will benefit from this.
“While [the coronavirus is] scary for humanity, it’s likely to provide a shot in the arm to the country’s workforce productivity apps,” Bloomberg writes. “Some experts say the virus threat could keep offices shut for months, prompting workers to turn to video chat, messaging and office collaboration tools to keep their businesses going.”
“It couldn’t be better timing for Chinese tech giants like Tencent, Alibaba and ByteDance, which were already investing heavily in enterprise software as their growing consumer tech businesses showed signs of slowing down,” Bloomberg continued.
“It’s a good working opportunity for us to test working from home at scale,” Alvin Foo, a managing director in Shanghai, told the publicaton as they discussed how he’s going to keep his 400-person ad agency running during the outbreak. While locked out of their Shanghai offices, Foo said the team would rely heavily on WeChat, Skype for Business and Office 365.
People turn to their phones for entertainment
With millions stuck at home in China, people have turned to their smartphones for entertainment.
“Online games and short video apps have been among the few beneficiaries of China’s virus outbreak, raking in millions of views and downloads as people stuck in self-quarantine at home seek entertainment and ways to beguile their time,” Reuters reported earlier this week.
This naturally includes video apps like TikTok, as it and other platforms have seen a surge in new memes created by people stuck at home looking to combat the grim mood with some lightheartedness
As for the boost in mobile gaming, it has resulted in increased in-game purchases, more ad revenue, and higher stock values.
“Tencent’s blockbuster mobile game, ‘Honour of Kings’ made up to 2 billion yuan ($286 million) on the Jan. 24 eve of the holiday, estimated Pei Pei, an analyst with Sinolink Securities Co, exceeding all the Chinese mobile games on Apple’s app store during the entire week-long break in 2018,” Reuters highlighted.
In a comicly dark turn of events, a 7-year old mobile game that allows you bioengineer a pathogen to wipe out the world’s population has been topping sales charts. The game, Plague Inc., generated 78,000 downloads in January, up from 16,000 in December, according to Sensor Tower.
The vaccine race begins as investors look to cash in
The most obvious party to profit off an outbreak, pharmaceutical companies are racing to bring a vaccine to the market.
Two weeks ago, as China was beginning to report more and more cases of the virus, Chinese pharmaceutical stocks skyrocketed.
“A major stock index in China that mainly tracks healthcare and IT companies closed at its highest level in three years. The ChiNext Price Index jumped 2.6% to its highest finish since January 2017,” CNN reported at the time.
In the US, pharma firms have seem a similar boost. Inovio Pharmaceuticals, one of the firsm reported to be workign on a vaccine, saw its stock rise 55% in a single day back in late January, and 40% the same week.
Investors are seen piling into shares of health-product companies they believe could benefit from the new coronavirus in China, Bloomberg said. At a time when so many other sectors like travel and tourism have been severely impacted, investors are looking for a safe haven to pour funds into, and pharmaceutical firms seem like the ideal option, even if their stock is relatively volatile.
Currently, the Coronavirus shows no signs of stopping, with new cases being reported outside China. Business, however, will not stop either, as these individuals and companies prove.