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[News Focus] COVID-19 'star' Seegene posts tenfold jump in revenue

(Graphics/The Korea Herald)
(Graphics/The Korea Herald)
South Korean diagnostics company Seegene is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the global COVID-19 crisis.

On Monday, the molecular biotech firm announced that its aggregate revenues so far this year topped 1 trillion won ($916.3 million) on the back of strong demand for COVID-19 test kits and diagnostic machines. That is nearly 10 times larger than the 122 billion won reported for all of 2019.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has raised public trust in Seegene’s molecular diagnostics reagent, leading to an expansion of demand for diagnostics solutions for diseases other than the coronavirus, such as cervical cancer, sexually transmitted infections and gastrointestinal diseases,” a Seegene official said.

The company garnered international attention for introducing a real-time polymerase chain reaction test kit for the new coronavirus as soon as the virus first entered Korea.

By coupling artificial intelligence technology and publicly released data from Chinese scientists, it was able to preemptively develop the test kits even before Korea reported its first confirmed patient.

Shares in Seegene pulled off a stellar performance this year.

Stocks traded at 215,500 won per share at noon on Monday, up nearly 1,000 percent from the pre-pandemic level.

In November and December 2019, a single Seegene share was worth between 20,000 won and 30,000 won, with marginal daily discrepancies.

Anyone who invested in Seegene then and held on to the shares until now would have multiplied their assets tenfold.

On Monday the company announced a total of 39 billion won in dividends, or 1,500 won per share, to be doled out Dec. 31.

This is a sum 15 times bigger than last year, when dividends came to 2.6 billion won or just 100 won per share.

Seegene aims to carry the growth momentum beyond the pandemic.

Prior to the COVID-19 situation, Seegene had had steady business with major hospitals, taking orders for patient disease diagnostics. Seegene has nearly 150 kinds of reagents for various diseases other than COVID-19.

In the month of November alone, nearly 250 diagnostic devices for Seegene’s reagents were installed around the world, the official said, which signifies that that many institutes wish to trade long-term with Seegene. This is a significant increase, as in 2019 it had taken a full year for similar numbers of Seegene devices to sell.

“We anticipate the demand for our products will continue,” Seegene official said.

The company announced plans to double its manufacturing capacity to 5 trillion won by the first quarter of 2021.

Alongside its manufacturing facility in Songpa-gu, Seoul, Seegene will build five more sites in Hanam, Gyeonggi Province, where it purchased 10,752 square meters of land in August.

Seegene has also leased 12 stories of a 28-story building in Songpa-gu, which will complete construction in September 2021. This new space will be used for administrative tasks, while the original headquarters and another building purchased in August will be used as research centers, Seegene said.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (kaylalim@heraldcorp.com)
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