Report: Large Chinese firm to deliver masks to national stockpile agency

Yle has not yet received confirmation of the order from the National Emergency Supply Agency.

Protective face masks in the National Emergency Supply Agency's stockpile. Image: Huoltovarmuuskeskus

A Chinese company known as Hengan International has told Yle that it will be delivering one of the batches of protective masks ordered by the National Emergency Supply Agency (HVK) next week.

The agency came under intense scrutiny following reports that masks and other protective gear that it purchased from a former reality TV star who sourced the order in China, failed to meet the required standards for hospital use.

Then-head of the agency, Tomi Lounema resigned from his post over the fiasco last Friday. Janne Känkänen, a director from the Ministry for Employment and the Economy was subsequently named interim CEO.

Meanwhile, another company claiming to represent Hengan International, Punda Global, said in a statement that HI had signed a deal with HVK for "protective equipment suitable for medical procedures". The statement said that the equipment conforms to Chinese standards and that that the customer in Finland had already approved samples sent in advance.

"We're not talking about millions of euros"

Punda Global CEO Riikka Hackselius-Fonsén said that the order was for protective masks and that the items do not have CE labels.

"That is based on an EU recommendation during the crisis situation at the end of March in which it said that it was possible to import other products that had not gone through the lengthy CE certification process, in a bid to speed up imports of protective equipment for possible use in the EU," Hackselius-Fonsén explained.

"However such products should have research facility test results so we know their appropriate usage purposes," she added.

Hackselius-Fonsén declined to disclose the value of the deal, but said that it was large.

"It is a plane load [of protective masks] which means it's a significant number and as a result the purchase price is substantial but we're not talking about several million [euros]," she commented.

The consignment should arrive in Finland during the course of next week. The Punda Global CEO said that since last Friday, deliveries from China have been delayed by product quality shortcomings recently revealed in Europe. As a result, all shipments are now being tested by Customs in China. The delay may be one week long, but according to Hackselius-Fonsén, the Hengan International order was received early enough to avoid any major delays.

According to Forbes business magazine (siirryt toiseen palveluun), Hengan International is a listed company with a market value of about about 10 billion euros and is a manufacturer of hygiene and paper products such as diapers, sanitary napkins, sanitary wipes and toilet paper.

Yle has reached out to HVK to confirm the information about the deal, but has not yet received a response.