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Coronavirus

South Korean coronavirus test kit makers surge on US request

Seegene and Sugentech shares hit upper limit as Trump seeks supplies

The U.S. is reaching out to South Korea for medical supplies to fight the coronavirus outbreak.   © Reuters

SEOUL -- Shares of South Korea's coronavirus test kit makers rose sharply on Wednesday on the expectation that they will export the medical device to the U.S. after President Donald Trump reached out to Seoul for supplies.

Seoul-based drug maker Seegen jumped 29.9% to 88,100 won, hitting the daily upper price limit and marking a record high for the company. Daejeon-based bio firm Sugentech saw its shares spike 29.9% to 21,250 won, reaching its 16-month high.

The rally came hours after Trump asked South Korean President Moon Jae-in if the country could export medical devices to the U.S. South Korean disease control authorities confirmed that Washington is seeking coronavirus test kits, and that the country has enough spare kits to export.

Investors are avid for news of drugs and devices to help arrest the coronavirus outbreak as the number of cases in Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere continues to rise. China's announcement that Avigan, a flu drug developed by Japan's Fujifilm Toyama Chemical, showed promise in treating the virus sent shares in parent company FujiFilm Holdings soaring last week.

Moon visited Seegen's headquarters in southern Seoul on Wednesday, applauding its researchers and employees for developing and producing coronavirus test kits. CEOs of four other bio companies joined the ceremony.

"You are at the front line to fight the virus. ... We could make achievements in preventing the epidemic because you took the first action by developing test kits quickly," Moon said.

The country has tested between 15,000 and 20,000 people every day since February, according to the presidential Blue House, bringing the total number of tested to 320,000. Five companies produce a combined 135,000 kits per day.

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