Billionaire Pham Nhat Vuong wants to put his company—and his country—on the global stage.
The coronavirus pandemic largely leapfrogged Vietnam—the country has reported just 332 cases and no deaths—but from his sprawling headquarters in Hanoi, billionaire Pham Nhat Vuong could see a need beyond the border. In April, the country’s richest man surveyed his cradle-to-grave conglomerate and made a decision. He was getting into ventilators.
In the worst cases of Covid-19, the virus attacks the lungs, making it harder to get oxygen to the bloodstream. A ventilator can be the difference between life and death, and there aren’t enough of them. By one estimate, the world’s hospitals could use another 800,000.
The shortage is most acute in the developing world—South Sudan, for example, has just four ventilators for a population of 12 million—but the world’s richest country is short, too. After reports that some hard-hit New York City hospitals had jury-rigged ventilators to serve two patients at the same time, President Donald Trump compelled automakers and other U.S. companies to start making the devices. Ford Motor Co. and General Electric Co. teamed up to deliver 50,000 ventilators by July 13 in a $336 million government contract.