If you had asked us back in December or January what the hot new sector creating new billionaires would be – well, suffice it to say, we would never have guessed that sector would be rubber gloves. Some hot new tech startup? Sure. A biotech firm? Absolutely. A real estate developer? Of course. A rubber glove manufacturer? Well, 2020 is proving to be strange in so many ways. I mean, did any of us think four or five months ago that face masks would be the hot new accessory? Nope.
Malaysia produces two-thirds of the world's supply of rubber gloves. The demand for rubber gloves in 2020 has created at least four billionaires – two of whom are brand-new billionaires this year alone. Thai Kim Sim, proprietor of Supermax Club is the most recent to join the 10-figure club. He hit a $1 billion net worth on a stock surge in early June. Other companies to benefit from the coronavirus related outbreak are Top Glove Corp., which is the world's biggest rubber glove maker, Hartalega Holdings, and Kossan Rubber Industries. Supermax, however, has seen its stock price increase fivefold over the last few months.
Thai Kim Sim and his wife founded Supermax in 1987. The company started out as a business that traded rubber gloves. It got into manufacturing gloves in 1989 and became the first manufacturer to create its own glove label. Supermax exports to more than 160 countries and provided 12% of the world's rubber gloves. Thai and his immediate family own 38% of Supermax.
Social distancing, protective equipment like face masks and gloves, and temperature checks have become the norm in the strange new world of 2020. The coronavirus pandemic has killed 430,000 people across the globe and shows no signs of stopping – despite responsible citizens and healthcare workers' best efforts, people refusing to wear masks in public is continuing the spread of the deadly disease. That's probably good news for rubber glove (and facemask) makers.
Malaysia became the global leader in latex glove production in the 1980s. Demand rose then because of the rise of AIDS. With low labor costs in the Southeast Asian nation, entrepreneurs were able to leverage the country's vast plantations of rubber trees and its large oil industry to make rubber gloves.
Lim Wee Chai is the founder of Top Glove. He's seen his business more than triple this year, lifting his net worth to $2.5 billion. His company had a 366% surge in revenue for the three months ending May 31. Hartalega and Kossan have seen their stock double in 2020. Kuan Kam Hon and his family own Hartalega, and his net worth has grown to $4.8 billion. Lim Kuang Sia of Kossan Rubber is another new billionaire with a $1.1 billion net worth.
Supermax has seen the biggest surge of the year with a 394% stock price increase. Supermax makes 24 billion gloves each year. The company expects that to grow to 44 billion by 2024. Supermax has acquired more land to build a larger manufacturing facility to meet the global demand for rubber gloves. That sounds like good news for Thai Kim Sim. And it is, as long as China doesn't get in on the rubber glove game. In just the past week, China has upped its production of protective gloves, causing Supermax to lose 13% of its share price, its biggest slump since August 2018.