Singapore—The demand for ventilators worldwide due to the coronavirus pandemic has caused Singapore’s richest man, Li Xiting, to get wealthier by US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) per month.
Mr Li is the co-founder of Shenzhen Mindray Bio-Medical Electronics Co. The company’s stock has risen by nearly 50 percent amid the pandemic, which has made ventilators essential to a number of people infected with the coronavirus.
Bloomberg shows that Mr Li’s wealth rose by US$4.3 billion (S$6.1 billion), which means every 24 hours, on average, he has seen his wealth grow by US$37.7 million (S$53.8 million).
Mr Li, the country’s richest individual, was born in the Anhui province in Eastern China and has been a citizen of Singapore for the past two years. He studied physics and specialized in the field of cryogenics, which is the production and behaviour of materials at very low temperatures, while he was still in China. In the 1980s, he became a visiting scholar at the University of Paris-Sud.
After this, he went on to work for a medical equipment company back in southern China and then founded Mindray in 1991 with Xu Hang and Cheng Minghe.
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reports that the company said in an email that its orders spiked “sharply” last month. “We received orders from 100-odd countries for our medical devices to fight against the epidemic,” Mindray told SCMP in an email.
From Italy alone, one of the coronavirus hotspots in Europe and where nearly 200,000 people have tested positive for Covid-19, Mindray received an order for around 10,000 ventilators and monitors. Italy has reported 25,549 deaths from the disease, which makes it second only to the United States in its case fatality rate.
Ventilators have been essential in the treatment of around five percent of all Covid-19 cases. These cases are so severe that patients need mechanical ventilators in order to breathe. While that percentage may seem small, given the large, and rising, number of novel coronavirus patients, country after country has reported a shortage of these breathing machines.
What a ventilator does for you is essentially to do the work of breathing, while your body is fighting off the coronavirus infection. Experts have called the ventilator “the device that becomes the decider between life and death,” which makes their shortage all the more alarming.
Since the coronavirus outbreak started, Mr Li has been one of the top five gainers of wealth around the globe. He has gained even more wealth than Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, whose net worth is up by $3.4 billion. Microsoft founder Bill Gates, in contrast, is down by $15.3 billion.
Even until March, Mindray did not have the needed approval from the US Food and Drug Administration to produce their machines, but an emergency rule allowed the company to begin production for the US market.
TISG reported earlier this month that Li Xiting’s surge in wealth is in stark comparison to his fellow billionaires in Asia. Hong Kong’s wealthiest man, Li Ka-shing, lost $7.1 billion this year due to the recession because of the pandemic as well as widespread protests last year. —/TISG
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