China National Pharmaceutical Group Co signs a slew of contracts with foreign partners at the first China International Import Expo held in Shanghai last year. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
Sinopharm, its arms expand their drug, vaccine and medical services businesses
When some north Indian states were rocked yet again by deaths of hundreds of children due to Japanese encephalitis, or JE, last month, executives of China National Pharmaceutical Group Co, or Sinopharm, the largest healthcare company in China, realized the lifesaving role the company's vaccines could play not just in China but all over the world.
JE is a lethal brain infection common in Asia and the western Pacific that can, however, be prevented using vaccines. As the world's largest JE vaccine provider, Sinopharm accounts for 80 percent of global JE vaccine consumption, they said.
The company is sewing up plans to expand its global footprint, especially in economies participating in the Belt and Road Initiative, they said.
"We ranked 194th on the Fortune Global 500 list last year, and will certainly rank higher this year," said Zeng Bing, Sinopharm's vice-president and secretary to the board of directors.
"Our exports growth has been outpacing that of imports significantly in recent years, although imports remain robust."
Work related to technological innovation, overseas investment, foreign markets accessibility, and international talent recruitment will be the focus of Sinopharm next.
The goal is to further increase exports and achieve high-quality development in overseas markets, Zeng said.
Earlier this year, a team of high-ranking officials of Indian health and family welfare ministry paid a visit to two subsidiaries of Sinopharm. They thanked the company for its help in controlling JE during the earlier outbreaks.
Sinopharm has been exporting such vaccines to India for 12 years, and supplied 2.1 million doses of free vaccines in early 2018, when shortages raised concerns of an outbreak of JE.
The company estimates it will have provided 410 million doses of JE vaccines to India by this year-end.
Its subsidiary for vaccine and biological medicine sector, China National Biotech Group Co Ltd, said more than 450 million doses of the JE vaccine have been exported to 12 countries and regions since receiving the World Health Organization's pre-qualification in October 2013.
The certificate means that the vaccine is up to international standards in terms of quality, safety and efficacy.
The subsidiary has registered eight of its products in 33 countries and regions for 54 certificates. Apart from JE vaccines, its other vaccines for pneumonia and polio are part of its export items.
In China, Sinopharm has more than 1,100 subsidiaries, including six listed ones, and more than 110,000 employees. Its core businesses span a wide range from distribution and retail of healthcare and pharmaceutical products to scientific research, manufacturing and sector financing.
Its compound annual growth rate of total assets in the 2009-2018 period was 30.5 percent and revenue's CAGR was 24 percent in the same period. In 2018, the company's revenue was 400 billion yuan ($58.16 billion).
Last year, the company imported products and materials worth $671 million, and exported products worth $4.06 billion. Its industrial products worth $383 million were exported to 88 countries and regions. Exports of industrial products to 38 BRI economies accounted for $266 million, or 69 percent of the total. Chemical and biological drugs, and traditional Chinese medicine remedies, were its main exports.
Outside China, Sinopharm has 19 subsidiaries and facilities in 10 countries, including Germany, India, Egypt, Vietnam and Ukraine, which operate in various businesses like international trade, pharmaceutical manufacturing, engineering contracting, medical technology support and services.
Zeng said the company has been doing business with more than 60 BRI economies, and will build more overseas offices. It will also strengthen business and trade cooperation with foreign and local companies by establishing joint ventures.
Within the next five to 10 years, the company aims to export eight to 10 more products to international markets, making itself an important and reliable vaccine provider, according to Chen Jian, a publicity executive with National Biotech.
Beijing-based China Sinopharm International Co, Sinopharm's fully-owned subsidiary and its main platform for overseas healthcare and pharmaceutical business, adopts a whole-industry-chain approach for overseas markets.
Its operations in the pharmaceutical sector cover project investment, construction, supply of active pharmaceutical ingredients, and pharmaceutical factory operations.
In the healthcare sector, its business covers medical project design, construction, medical device and equipment installation and maintenance, staff training, hospital operation, and medical transport and delivery.
It has helped many developing countries improve their medical services. A shining example in this regard is a project in Ecuador.
The subsidiary signed a contract with Ecuador's health authorities in 2014 to provide new equipment and devices to 120 hospitals and medical centers in the country, the first such project between a Chinese company and the country's government.
The company provided and installed more than 20,000 sets of medical equipment and devices at those medical facilities.
The company accomplished the project in about 300 days. Most remarkably, it installed and adjusted more than 1,000 sets of medical devices and equipment in a large hospital in the country's capital Quito within 40 hours.
"Our speed surprised the whole country, and further promoted the image and credibility of Sinopharm and Chinese companies," said Zhang Liqiong, vice-president and secretary to the board of the subsidiary.
Sinopharm's subsidiary China Traditional Chinese Medicine Holdings Co Ltd, or China TCM, established its own subsidiary in Penang, Malaysia, in 2014, to import raw medicine materials from the BRI countries and regions and then process them to sell.
The "dragon's blood", a natural tree resin, and "bird's nest", a restorative and remedial food in TCM, are imported from Southeast Asia, while other materials, such as frankincense and myrrh are imported from Ethiopia, Kenya and other East African countries.
Besides, its exports of TCM concentrated granules in 2018 increased almost 24 percent from 2017 to 60 million yuan, a record high.
The company expects the TCM concentrated granules exports will reach 80 million yuan this year, and increase to 130 million yuan within three years, according to Lan Qingshan, vice-president of the company.
Zhou Lisha, a researcher at the research institute of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, said it is commendable that Chinese companies are participating in the shared development of the economies participating in the BRI.