Monday, February 04, 2008

The Rise of the Synthetic Rubber Gloves?

On the 30th Jan 2008, Bernama carried the following news: Malaysian Latex Glove Makers Fighting Bad Publicity In US

Here is a snippet of what's said:

  • Malaysian latex glove makers are fighting bad publicity emerging from the US medical community, particularly the Johns Hopkins Hospital which recently announced its ban on latex gloves and other latex medical products from its premises.

    The hospital has opted to become “latex safe” by ending use of all latex gloves and almost all medical latex products to prevent rare but severe allergic reactions — called anaphylaxis — that could include wheezing, rapid heartbeat and a sudden drop in blood pressure.

    Johns Hopkins anesthesiologist Dr Robert Brown, who chairs the hospital’s latex task force, said while such reactions could be fatal, he conceded that he knew of no such deaths at the hospital located in Baltimore, Maryland.

    “We do care about our users, and their safety is very important to us — we’re not just selling gloves — but we’re concerned that the decision of Johns Hopkins to eliminate latex gloves from its hospital is based on outdated data,” Dr Esah Yip, director of the Malaysian Rubber Export Promotion Council (MREPC) in Washington, told Bernama.

And according to a RHB report, the glove manufacturers under their coverage were not overly concerned of it because the manufacturers are flexible enough to allow them to shift between the production of natural and synthetic rubber gloves without too much downtime. And in fact, stronger demand for synthetic rubber gloves could be a boon because these syntheric gloves geberate better gross profit margins.

This morning, the following article on Hartalega on BTimes, a synthetic rubber glove manufacturer caught my interest: Hartalega to profit from stretchy nitrile gloves

  • "Since the launch (of nitrile gloves) in 2004, we have received overwhelming demand from the US, Germany and Japan. Clients are happy with the stretchability, tactile feel and dexterity our nitrile gloves offer," Kuan said.

    Today, Hartalega's output ratio is 70 per cent nitrile and 30 per cent natural rubber.

    "As demand for nitrile gloves continues to increase, we plan to double our plant capacity," Kuan said.

    Hartalega was supposed to debut on Bursa Malaysia last year but Kuan said he decided to delay the listing when news of Tillotson's patent infringement claim against other nitrile glovemakers made headlines.

    "While our patented stretchy nitrile gloves is outside that claimed by Tillotson, we did not want to risk confusion among prospective investors then.

    "We decided to wait until things are clearer. Now that the Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers' Association is spearheading a group initiative to invalidate Tillotson's claims, we feel that it is timely to go ahead with Hartalega's listing," Kuan said.

    Touted to be one of the world's most efficient rubber glovemakers, Hartalega only employs 1,300 workers to operate 23 highly automated production lines that are capable of producing 3.2 billion pieces a year.

    "Ten years ago, we were employing around 1,300 workers to produce 800 million pieces of gloves.

    "As time goes by, we improvise on the machinery to automated production lines. Today, we can produce four times more gloves while retaining the same number of workers," Kuan said.