Coronavirus Worries Keep Global Firms Away From Trade Shows
By Sarah Krouse and Elizabeth Koh
Fears over the fast-spreading coronavirus are prompting global
companies to cancel plans for major industry gatherings, as
executives weigh the risks and rewards of sending employees to
conferences that draw attendees from around the world.
A growing roster of telecommunications and technology companies
have decided not to attend the MWC Barcelona conference slated for
later this month. AT&T Inc., Amazon.com Inc., Cisco Systems
Inc., Intel Corp. and Sony Corp. are among the latest that have
said they won't send company delegates to the annual gathering,
which draws more than 100,000 people.
The Singapore Airshow, a biennial aerospace gathering that
typically hosts top executives from major plane makers and
suppliers, opened this week with muted attendance because of virus
concerns. Boeing Co. scaled back its presence and defense
contractors Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Co. skipped the
And watchmaker Swatch Group AG has canceled plans for an annual
trade event in Zurich in early March, which it uses to present new
luxury-watch models. It will host regional events instead.
Scientists and public-health officials globally are racing to
learn more about the virus, which has become an epidemic in China
that has infected more than 42,000 people, killed more than 1,000
and overwhelmed hospitals in the country.
The Barcelona trade show, previously known as Mobile World
Congress, is typically an opportunity for carriers, equipment
makers and government officials globally to meet their foreign
counterparts and showcase their latest devices and technology. This
year's event, which is scheduled to begin Feb. 24, comes as
carriers around the world race to roll out faster 5G networks.
Ericsson AB of Sweden said Friday it was withdrawing from the
event and LG Electronics of South Korea last week was among the
first to say it wouldn't send representatives, to prevent
"needlessly exposing hundreds of LG employees to international
Show attendees typically pack a sprawling Barcelona convention
center speckled with booths bearing the logos of telecommunications
and equipment giants. Last year's conference was dominated by
China's Huawei Technologies Co., with a sizable booth on the
exhibition floor. Huawei's lotus logo also has adorned attendee
name-tag lanyards in recent years.
The event's organizer, mobile-carrier trade group GSMA, said
Sunday that visitors from China would have to prove via passport
stamp or a health certificate that they have been outside of the
country for 14 days. GSMA also said last week that it was important
to convene industry members and global policy makers "at this
critical time where connectivity is on the cusp of a new industrial
The industry group said it will provide temperature screening
and disinfectant stations. Some attendees plan to arrive early in
Spain to allow time to self-quarantine and replace staff from
high-risk locations with employees from Europe, it added.
Qualcomm Inc., Nokia Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co. said they
are still considering whether to attend.
Samsung, which launched the next models of its flagship Galaxy
devices in San Francisco on Tuesday, had already intended to limit
its presence at the Barcelona event. At its own event, Samsung had
signs urging attendees to reduce their risk of coronavirus
infection and cautioning that medical screenings would be
conducted. Several people at the event accepted masks that were
provided near the entrance.
A spokesman for Samsung said the company is continuing to
monitor the situation to determine the extent of its participation
in Barcelona and likely to reach a final verdict around the end of
the week. It hasn't implemented companywide operating changes, but
some individual facilities are limiting visitors' access and taking
InterDigital Inc, a mobile and video technology
research-and-development company, and Amdocs Ltd., a provider of
software and services to communications and media companies, said
earlier this week that their employees wouldn't attend MWC.
--Cristina Roca and Robert Wall contributed to this article.
Write to Sarah Krouse at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
February 11, 2020 15:57 ET (20:57 GMT)
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