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[Kosdaq Star] Fine dust woes boost Winix momentum

This is the 54th in a series of articles analyzing major companies traded on the tech-heavy Kosdaq market. -- Ed.

Living with fine dust has become a new norm for South Koreans, with pedestrians wearing masks and outdoor sports events often being canceled due to poor air quality.

Fine dust checking apps bring yet more scientific ways to accurately measure the levels, not to mention air purifiers becoming a requisite for indoors.

But with the government struggling to deal with the dust problem and the local market still relatively small, there is a lot of potential for growth in air purifier sales in Korea.

Winix is one of the most prominent maker of household air purifier, and its stock price showed strong uptrend for the past couple of months. 

On Friday, Winix closed at 18,750 won ($17.5), up 8.7 percent from the previous closing. The company’s stock price hit 52-week-high at 21.800 won on March 26. The stock price barely topped 12,000 won for over a year and a half until the end of 2017.

Winix is the 184th-largest stock out of some 1,200 companies listed on the tech-heavy Kosdaq, with 335.1 billion won in market cap as of Friday. 

Founded in 1986 and listed on the Kosdaq in 2000, Winix has manufactured and sold home appliances such as humidifiers, water purifiers and air purifiers.

Winix, comprising a corporation in Korea and subsidiaries in China, Thailand, the United States and Netherland, suffered a net loss for two consecutive years -- 17.1 billion won in 2015 and 13.9 billion won in 2016.

The company made a turnaround in 2017, logging yearly net profit at 11.3 billion won in a regulatory filing in April. Also, the operating profit jumped sevenfold on-year, to 17.3 billion won in 2017.

Yoon Ju-ho, an analyst at Meritz Securities, wrote in a report that Winix started to shift their business focus away from humidifiers to air purifiers.

“Consumer awareness about air quality began to increase,” he wrote.

Yoon added that signs of consumption pattern in domestic market -- purchasing the products instead of subscribing to rental services -- will lead to “structural growth of market.”

Yoon projected the subscription rate of air purifier rental service to decrease due to “financial burden.”

Winix’ popularity has been particularly strong here, with the firm’s market share growth in sales volume outpacing that of the domestic air purifier market, Yoon noted.

Another analyst, Choi Yoo-june of Shinhan Financial Investment, wrote in a report that an increasing level of fine dust in Korea is bringing about a shift in electric home appliance market trend.

The government has yet to effectively come up with a way to decrease the level of fine dust in Korea, Choi added, which on the other hand accelerated the sales of home appliances like air purifiers and clothes dryers. Choi picked Winix as one of the beneficiaries from the trend.

In the domestic market where the air purifier penetration rate is 37 percent, Winix has competitors at home and abroad, including Samsung Electronics, Coway, LG Electronics and Xiaomi.

As of 2017, Winix had a 26.1 percent share of the air purifier market in sales volume and was ranked No. 2 following Samsung Electronics, according to local research firm Danawa Research.

Co-Chief Executives Yoon Hee-jong and and his son Yoon Chul-min own 33.35 percent and 21.42 percent of Winix shares, according to the regulatory filing.

By Son Ji-hyoung