Some firms fret, others profit from pandemic

TORONTO — While many Canadian companies fret about how to deal with staff shortages and dropping revenue from the H1N1 flu, others are profiting from growing demand for everything from hand sanitizer to medical advice.

TORONTO — While many Canadian companies fret about how to deal with staff shortages and dropping revenue from the H1N1 flu, others are profiting from growing demand for everything from hand sanitizer to medical advice.

BMO Nesbitt Burns calculated that a mild pandemic would cut Canada’s annual economic growth by two percentage points, six percentage points with a severe outbreak.

But not all companies will be affected equally and many are already poised to turn a tidy profit.

Montreal-based medical equipment maker Noveko International Inc. (TSX:EKO) has seen demand for its antimicrobial surgical face masks and its Azuro brand hand sanitizer soar since the flu first appeared.

Noveko spokeswoman Chantal Vennat said the company sold 20,000 litres of hand sanitizer in total last year. Since the end of April, it’s been selling 20,000 litres a week.

Not surprisingly, Noveko’s biggest problem has been keeping up with demand. Although it contracts out production of its products, Vennat said it’s been challenging mobilizing producers quickly enough.

Despite this, Noveko has managed to increase production of its masks from one million a month to nine million a month since April.

“Right away at the end of April we shipped the first million face masks to Mexico, which was a good part of what we had in inventory because we were just at the beginning of commercialization for the masks,” Vennat said.