Electric vehicle maker BYD (SEHK:1211) transitioned to making N95 respirators in China in January, with the COVID-19 pandemic spreading in that country. The company has the capacity to make 50 million N95 masks per day, and took a $1 billion order from the state of California as the U.S. faced shortages of the much-needed safety equipment.
The Chinese company, which is 25% owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway underestimated the process for getting regulatory approval in the U.S., delaying the California order. Now, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health -- a unit of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- has granted approval for the company to supply N95 masks supply to the U.S., according to The Wall Street Journal.
The certification process delayed the expected fulfillment of the California order by about a month, according to the report. The original contract was announced by the state in early April, though it didn't name the foreign supplier. There was speculation that it was BYD, as its U.S. office is in Los Angeles. Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state had ordered 150 million masks per month, and the manufacturer was to obtain NIOSH approval by the end of April.
BYD, which stands for "build your dreams," received an extension for approval as the process was more demanding than expected. According to The Wall Street Journal, Stella Li, the head of BYD's North American business, said that the initial audit failed because of documentation issues and the company underestimated the rigor of the regulatory process.