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UPDATE 4-Top glove maker's shares slump; workers in Malaysia test positive for COVID

24 Nov 2020 / 17:05 H.

    * Over 2,000 workers tested COVID positive

    * Government says will shut 28 factories

    * Closures could hurt FY21 profit by 2-4% - analysts (Adds details about workers, dorms and cluster in par 6-8)

    By Liz Lee

    KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 24 (Reuters) - Top Glove Corp shares slumped on Tuesday after Malaysia said it would close some factories of the world's biggest rubber glove maker as over 2,000 of its workers had tested positive for COVID-19.

    Top Glove's shares fell as much as 7.5% after the government said 28 factory buildings would be shut in phases, although it did not provide a timetable.

    The company, which commands a quarter of the global latex glove market, has racked up record profits this year on sky-rocketing demand for its products and protective gear, thanks to the pandemic. Its shares have surged over four fold this year, even after Tuesday's fall.

    Malaysia itself makes just under two thirds of the world's rubber gloves, according to the Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association. Hartalega Holdings and Supermax Corp are the other two top glovemakers in the country.

    Malaysia's Health Ministry reported a sharp rise in cases in the area where Top Glove factories and dormitories are located, with 2,453 workers testing positive for the virus, out of 5,767 screened.

    This cluster is the country's largest active cluster and its second largest since the start of the pandemic.

    The government put up barbed wire fences in front of the workers' hostels on Tuesday, with checkpoints that were guarded by police and army personnel.

    Top Glove has around 16,000 employees and runs 47 factories across Malaysia, Thailand, China and Vietnam, with 36 of them producing gloves. Europe and North America are its biggest markets.

    In a stock exchange filing on Monday, Top Glove said it had temporarily stopped production at 16 of the 28 facilities since last Wednesday, with the balance of 12 facilities operating at much reduced capacities.

    The company did not immediately respond to an email from Reuters seeking details, including the impact on production.

    MIDF Research analyst Ng Bei Shan said in a note that the closures will reduce production capacity by 50%, adding that a two-weeks closure could hurt net income by 4% in fiscal 2021 if average selling prices remain the same.

    However, tightened supply may also boost prices, cushioning the impact, she said. Ng said the closures had not yet affected the company's orders and that she was maintaining her earnings estimates for fiscal 2021.

    "The development of the temporary closure of its facilities in stages is still fluid. As such, the actual impact to Top Glove's full-year earnings may be hard to ascertain at this point," she said.

    Two other analysts predicted a 2% hit to annual profit.

    Last week, the government ordered 14-day curbs through Nov. 30 in parts of a district about 40 kms (24.8 miles) west of the capital Kuala Lumpur, where Top Glove factories and dormitories are located.

    (Reporting by Liz Lee in Kuala Lumpur; Writing by Sayantani Ghosh; Editing by Tom Hogue, Neil Fullick and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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