Malaysia reassures on supply after world's largest latex glove maker shuts factories

By Liz Lee

By Liz Lee

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia, the world's largest producer of rubber gloves, on Wednesday said it does not anticipate any disruption to supply after a top manufacturer shut some factories due to a coronavirus outbreak among its workers.

Malaysia makes just under two-thirds of the world's medical rubber gloves, global demand for which has surged in the pandemic, helping manufacturers such as Top Glove Corp report record profits.

But after thousands of workers at Top Glove's factories in Klang - about 40 km (25 miles) west of Kuala Lumpur - have tested positive for COVID-19, the government said it would shut some of its factories in phases to screen and quarantine workers.

The affected factories represent about half the total production capacity of Top Glove, the world's biggest latex glove maker.

"Be assured that new capacity is available to make good the interim shortfall and that there is not going to be any aggravated disruption to whatever is currently being supplied to the world," the Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association said on Wednesday.

Battling the nation's largest cluster since the pandemic began, authorities have erected barbed-wire fences in front of the workers' hostels.

The health ministry said on Tuesday total infections in the Klang cluster reached 4,036 out of 5,777 people screened.

Top Glove said on Wednesday it was continuing to screen employees for COVID-19 and expects confirmed cases to fall going forward. The majority of those tested were asymptomatic, it said.

On Tuesday, the company said it expected deliveries to be delayed and sales to take a hit in the 2021 financial year.

The firm has about 16,000 factory employees and runs 47 plants in Malaysia, Thailand, China and Vietnam, with 36 of them producing gloves.

Top Glove's stock fell 7.5% on Tuesday, and another 3% on Wednesday.

Hartalega Holdings and Supermax Corp are Malaysia's other two large manufacturers of rubber gloves.

(Reporting by Liz Lee, Writing by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Shri Navaratnam, Himani Sarkar and Louise Heavens)