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UPDATE 2-Samsung BioLogics says decision pending on making Moderna vaccine as report ignites share

(Adds updates details, shares)

SEOUL, May 14 (Reuters) - Samsung BioLogics Co Ltd said on Friday no decision has been made yet on producing Moderna Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine in South Korea after a newspaper reported the two companies had agreed on a contract manufacturing deal.

The Chosun Ilbo reported that the biotech arm of Samsung Group has agreed to produce the Moderna vaccine in its plant in Songdo, part of which will be used for domestic vaccination, citing unnamed government and pharmaceutical industry sources.

Samsung BioLogics said in a short filing to the stock exchange that no decision has been finalised. The company will provide an update within a month as required by regulations, a company official said.

Moderna did not immediately reply to a Reuters’ request for comment.

Shares in Samsung BioLogics jumped as much as 8.7% on Friday to a record high of 941,000 won ($833.18) following the report, outperforming a 0.9% rise in the broader market KOSPI’s.

The statement follows a denial by Samsung and Pfizer Inc earlier this week of another media report that the two companies were working together to produce a COVID-19 vaccine developed by the U.S. firm and its German partner BioNTech .

The Moderna shot has yet to be approved in South Korea, but the second of three expert panels recommended approval for emergency use of the vaccine on Thursday, based on its safety and efficacy in Phase 3 late-stage trials in the United States.

If agreed, the deal could become Moderna’s first production of its COVID-19 vaccine in Asia where many countries are battling a surge in infections and limited access to vaccines, raising concerns about deepening inequity in distribution.

Australia said on Thursday it is in talks with Moderna to establish domestic production of messenger RNA vaccines.

Samsung BioLogics, which produces a COVID-19 antibody treatment developed by Eli Lilly and Co, began construction of a fourth plant in South Korea late last year.

The plant will be the world’s biggest biopharmaceutical manufacturing facility with 256,000 litres of production capacity and will begin operation by the end of 2022, Samsung said at the time. ($1=1,129.4100 won) (Reporting by Sangmi Cha; Additional reporting by Heekyong Yang; Editing by Miyoung Kim, Leslie Adler & Simon Cameron-Moore)

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