It’s been a good year for glove companies and their founders.
Malaysia, a country that produces about 65% of the world’s supply for rubber gloves, now counts at least four billionaires whose fortunes were made in the industry, including two new ones this year alone. Thai Kim Sim of Supermax Corp. was the latest to join the club, with a net worth estimated at about $1 billion at the stock high earlier this month, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
A jump in demand due to the coronavirus outbreak has propelled shares of companies making protective gear, suddenly turning the Southeast Asian nation into a hotspot for creating ultra-wealthy individuals within the sector. Top Glove Corp., the world’s biggest maker of the product, Hartalega Holdings Bhd. and Kossan Rubber Industries Bhd. have all benefited. But with a fivefold jump, Supermax’s ascent has been particularly notable this year.
“It has become a new norm to wear gloves for various purposes, including medical and retail, and the high usage will benefit their makers in the long term,” said Walter Aw, an analyst at CGS-CIMB Research. “Supermax is a very interesting story. It does its own brand manufacturing, while others are mainly suppliers.”
Thai founded Supermax with his wife in 1987, starting it as a business trading latex gloves before venturing into manufacturing in 1989. It became the first manufacturer to come up with its own glove label, Supermax, in response to the government’s call to brand Malaysian products. The company now exports to more than 160 countries and meets 12% of the global demand for latex examination gloves, according to its website.
Thai and his direct family members own 38% of Supermax, according to company filings. He declined to comment for this story.
Just like social distancing and temperature checks, wearing protective equipment has become the norm with the virus pandemic that has already killed more than 430,000 people worldwide. Global demand for rubber gloves could grow 11% to 330 billion pieces this year, two-thirds of which is likely to come from Malaysia, the country’s rubber glove manufacturers association estimates.