Costa says no Eastman employee has coronavirus

Hank Hayes • Feb 19, 2020 at 7:30 PM

No Eastman employee in China has Covid-19, commonly known as the coronavirus, Eastman Chairman and CEO Mark Costa told the Barclays Industrial Select Conference in Miami on Wednesday.

“Our first priority with all the people, if they are employees, we want people to be safe,” Costa said. “The good news is none of our employees have yet been identified as contracting the virus, so that’s very good news.”

Costa noted that Eastman, a Kingsport-based specialty products maker, gets 10% of its revenues from China and has nine manufacturing plants and two major offices there.

Costa reported that eight of the factories are back up and running, with the lone idled plant being at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.

“The good news is China is getting back to business. You can see them taking dramatic action yesterday dropping all the tariffs,” Costa told the conference. “A bigger issue we’re all going to face is more logistics... It’s a lot harder for people to be moving about China as they are trying to control the spread, impacting the rate as to which trucks are available.”

Costa pointed out Eastman’s January orders were stronger than expected and very encouraging until the coronavirus outbreak hit.

“We could see the business confidence sort of returning across the globe, including China. ... It pretty much held that way through January, but with the coronavirus now building up and impact on China and questions around the globe, we’re going to have to see how that plays out. ... February, March is less clear,” Costa said.

Eastman’s Wuhan facility produces Benzoflex benzoate ester plasticizers, benzoic acid, and sodium benzoate for adhesives, sealants, flooring, coatings and inks.

Eastman recently announced the company is allowing employees to work from home. Travel restrictions also have been implemented to help reduce the spread of the virus.