(Jan 21): For Japanese investors, Tesla Inc. battery supplier Panasonic Corp. was long a proxy for Elon Musk’s firm, at least before the automaker’s gravity-defying surge in 2020.
Now, Panasonic is being bought on a new theme — the cold-storage chain needed to supply the world with coronavirus vaccines.
Panasonic’s shares rose as much 5.5% in Tokyo on Thursday after the company announced that it had developed containers that can be used to transport vaccines at temperatures of minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit).
The electronics maker said it plans to give samples of the boxes to pharmaceutical and logistics firms from the end of March, and aims to commercialize the product as soon as possible.
While the statement conspicuously avoided any mention of coronavirus, with the announcement coming a day after Japan sealed a contract with Pfizer Inc. for 144 million doses of its vaccine, investors were left with little doubt what market Panasonic is targeting.
Pfizer’s messenger RNA-based shot, which Japan is set to approve in February and is likely to be the only Covid-19 vaccine available in the country for months, must be stored at an ultra-cool temperature to avoid going bad.
Local media on Wednesday said that Japan aims to vaccinate the majority of its population by July, though officials have pushed back against the reports.
As many countries around the world seek to inoculate their populations as quickly as possible, companies making freezers, vials, needles and trucks have all seen their shares benefit.
Another Japanese consumer electronics maker, Twinbird Corp., also makes containers for transporting vaccines. It added another 5% on Thursday, taking gains in the past 12 months to almost 300%.