Pharmaceutical companies in Bangladesh witnessed a slump in profits during the third quarter (January-March) of fiscal 2019-20 following reduced sales of prescription medicine amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
At the same time, however, seven drug manufacturers saw a rise in their earnings per share while nine others booked lower profits, according to data from the Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSE).
Meanwhile, another three pharmaceutical companies continue to incur losses and two others have yet to publish their financial records.
The majority of hospitals and private chambers were closed for a considerable about of time during the January-March period and so, the sale of prescription medicine dropped, said Md Rafiqul Islam, head of corporate affairs and company secretary of the ACME Laboratories.
ACME Laboratories is a leading pharmaceutical company that recorded about Tk 912 crore in sales halfway through fiscal 2018-19, according to data from the DSE.
However, the company's earnings per share fell 3.44 per cent year-on-year to Tk 1.68 in the third quarter of the previous fiscal year. ACME Laboratories was listed on the DSE back in 2016.
The government announced a two-week nationwide general holiday, beginning on March 26, in a bid to contain the spread of coronavirus in Bangladesh.
However, after the situation deteriorated, the lockdown was extended by two months.
"But our COVID-19 related medicines were sold out due to panic buying so we had to increase the production of these types of medicines gradually," Islam said.
Besides, the industry continues to suffer from a shortage of raw materials, forcing manufacturers to produce as much as possible given the situation, he added.
"People were anxious about getting infected, so most of them avoided trips to the physician's office unless they showed signs of respiratory issues or high-grade fever," said a top official of an asset management company that heavily invests in pharma stocks.
In light of this fact, the sale of drugs used to treat other diseases decreased amid the pandemic.
On the other hand, one positive that arose from the situation was that several listed drugmakers saw a rise in their profits during the January-March period and the same cannot be said for all other sectors, he added.
Due to their increased profitability, the seven pharmaceutical companies mentioned above were a top attraction for investors on the DSE trading board.
Square Pharmaceuticals led the list in turnover last week with the total value for stocks traded being about Tk 80 crore. Square was followed by Beximco Pharmaceuticals and Beacon Pharmaceuticals, according to the weekly market analysis of UCB Capital.
In March, there was some panic buying so although profits rose in that month, it did not continue into the next quarter, said Md Jubayer Alam, company secretary of Renata.
Renata, another listed company, recorded sales of Tk 2,221 crore in fiscal 2018-19.
People bought medicine in a frenzy in March due to fear of shortages when the pandemic intensified, Alam said.
In the fourth quarter (April-June), almost all pharmaceuticals companies saw a 20 per cent decrease in sales as people avoided seeing their doctors at the time unless absolutely necessary, he added.