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Investors to flock to makers of test kits, vaccines

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A gas station attendant stands next to a newspaper headline in Pretoria, South Africa, Saturday. AP-Yonhap
A gas station attendant stands next to a newspaper headline in Pretoria, South Africa, Saturday. AP-Yonhap

By Kim Yoo-chul

The Korean stock market is awaiting updates over the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. As the local stock market correlates very closely with moves in major indexes, investors are highly likely to react negatively following the U.S. and European stock markets' falls last week.

Crude oil prices and Treasury yields plunged on Wall Street as a new strain ― known as the Omicron variant ― prompted fears of renewed social restrictions. As the market slides, investors are being advised to move their money into stocks of companies related to vaccine production, work-from-home, food delivery and games, analysts said, Sunday.

Last week on Wall Street, Pfizer partner BioNTech and Moderna made gains on the back of the Omicron variant. Moderna said it is testing to see if a higher booster dose of its vaccine would provide protection against the new virus strain.

In sync with advances by vaccine-producing companies, Samsung Biologics and Seegene are expected to be visible gainers until any scientific findings are found proving the effectiveness of existing COVID-19 vaccines in defending against the Omicron variant.

A departures billboard displays flights to Lisbon, Cape Town, Zurich and Frankfurt at the airport in Munich, Germany, Saturday. EPA-Yonhap
A departures billboard displays flights to Lisbon, Cape Town, Zurich and Frankfurt at the airport in Munich, Germany, Saturday. EPA-Yonhap

Pfizer and Moderna said they were working on the development of Omicron COVID-19 variant vaccines, though FDA approval will take several months. Samsung Biologics is Moderna's CDMO partner under which the Samsung affiliate manufactures the latter's COVID-19 vaccines at its Songdo plant in Incheon, with substances and core materials provided by the U.S.-based biotech firm.

Last week, COVID-19 test-kit leader Seegene's share price spiked 17.1 percent to end at 71,900 won, with Labgenomics soaring 24.6 percent to 31,400 won per share. SK Bioscience, a local COVID-19 vaccine developer and one of the country's leading CDMO companies, saw a 9.41 percent rise to 279,000 won, according to data by Korea Exchange (KRX), the country's top bourse operator.

The so-called "lockdown beneficiaries," COVID-19 testing and vaccine companies, have been gaining. But their growth momentum has been questioned lately, mostly because of massive vaccination efforts by the Korean government.

"News of the Omicron COVID-19 variant is just a bad factor in terms of investor sentiment, as supply chain troubles have been continuing. But the market is awaiting developments such as factory closures. As no such announcements have been made yet, I would say market volatility would be limited," said Seo Sang-young, an analyst at Mirae Asset Securities.

"Again, we have to find out if this new variant will cause more lockdowns or even more economic depression around the world. Before that, investors are advised to assess stocks based on short-term trading view."

Other than "sentimental factors," some analysts said blind investment in the stocks of local vaccine makers aren't a guaranteed payoff, as the country's major biopharmaceutical firms are in boxed progress as they respond only to manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines.

Kim Yoo-chul yckim@koreatimes.co.kr


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