Glove demand to stay strong for a few more years

Accelerating growth: (from left) Hartalega chief commercial officer Kuan Mun Keng, Kam Hon and Mun Leong at the event.

PETALING JAYA: The global demand for gloves is likely to continue outstripping supply for the next three to four years, even if a vaccine for the Covid-19 becomes available, according to Hartalega Holdings Bhd.

The world’s largest nitrile glove maker says the consumption of gloves worldwide will continue to increase because of changes in user behaviour.

Speaking at a press conference after the group’s AGM yesterday, Hartalega CEO Kuan Mun Leong said the Covid-19 pandemic has changed user behaviour, and that was driving up demand for gloves.

“Demand in developed countries has increased 30%, while in developing countries, demand has more than doubled, ” Mun Leong said.

Due to heightened hygiene and safety awareness, there is now a structural step-up in the use of gloves, he said, adding that this was why the medium-term outlook for glove demand would remain strong.

The industry, he said, was currently facing a huge shortage, with about 120 billion pieces of gloves as additional demand.

“This demand can only be fulfilled in three years, ” Mun Leong said, adding that the industry would not see an oversupply in the next three to four years despite players actively ramping up their production capacities.

Mun Leong pointed out that without the pandemic, global demand for gloves typically expanded at an average of 8%-10% per year.

Meanwhile, Hartalega executive chairman Kuan Kam Hon said the company was constantly expanding at an average rate of about 20% per annum, which was slightly more than the organic growth in the industry.

“For us, the situation for the next three years is that of supply not meeting demand, ” Kam Hon said.

“Even if we have extra gloves by the fourth year, it goes into inventory building. When you have a supply shortage, you are not able to build inventory, ” he added.

On capacity expansion, Mun Leong said Hartalega was currently accelerating growth through its next generation glove manufacturing complex (NGC) to to meet the demand.

“To date, we have commissioned 10 out of 12 production lines for plant six, while for plant seven, the first production line is on-track for completion by October 2020, ” Mun Leong said.

The group recently acquired a 24.23ha land in Sepang, Selangor, adjacent to its NGC plant seven, for RM158mil.

The group plans to build four new plants on that piece of land with an investment of RM1.5bil.

“The first line will start production in October 2021, ” Mun Leong said.

Upon completion, the four new plants would add 19 billion pieces per annum in installed capacity.

In addition, Hartalega is expected to invest RM3bil for its next expansion phase, code-named NGC 2.0 to build seven factories on a 38ha in Banting, Selangor. The first production line is expected to be commissioned in the first half of 2022.

Mun Leong said once fully completed by 2027, Hartalega’s expansion plans would see the group’s total annual installed capacity increase to 95 billion pieces per annum.

Hartalega’s net profit more than doubled to a record RM219.7mil for the first quarter ended June 30,2020, while revenue jumped 44% year-on-year to RM920.1mil.

Mun Leong said Hartalega is expected to continue posting better results in the quarters ahead, supported by rising average selling prices due to strong global demand for gloves.

Glove prices, he said, are now three times as high as they were in pre-Covid-19 days.

This quarter alone, spot prices for gloves jumped 30%, and he expected them to increase 40%-50% in next quarter.

Hartalega’s shares rose RM1.10 to close at RM14.10 yesterday.

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