Friday July 3rd, 2020 11:49AM

Virus worries force cancellation of major tech show in Spain

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

LONDON (AP) — Organizers of the world’s biggest mobile technology fair are pulling the plug over worries about the viral outbreak from China.

The annual Mobile World Congress will no longer be held as planned in Barcelona, Spain, on Feb. 24-27.

“Global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event,” John Hoffman, head of the GSMA organizing body, said in a statement Wednesday.

The decision comes after dozens of tech companies and wireless carriers dropped out, with the latest cancelations by Nokia, Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom and Britain’s BT on Wednesday. Other companies that dropped out earlier include Ericsson, Nokia, Sony, Amazon, Intel and LG. The companies cited concerns for the safety of staff and visitors.

Organizers and government officials had sought to hold out against growing pressure to cancel the annual tech extravaganza, which had been expected to draw more than 100,000 visitors from about 200 countries, including 5,000 to 6,000 from China. The show normally represents a huge source of revenue for hotels, restaurants and taxi companies. Authorities have estimated the show was to generate 473 million euros ($516 million) and more than 14,000 part-time jobs for the local economy.

Spain's vice president, Carmen Calvo, said there was “no public health reason” to call off the show. She said Spain had a good health response system and was following all of the recommendations from the World Health Organization.

Dr. Mike Ryan, the WHO's emergencies chief, said before the cancellation that the show could have gone on.

He said that while no mass gathering is ever risk-free, with the potential for food poisoning, injuries or building collapse, most events “can continue if the proper measures can be applied.”

Spanish labor unions said that the show was called off due to the panic of the major technological companies. The CCOO union’s regional leader, Javier Pacheco, denounced “the alarmist attitude of the technological companies that from their position of global supremacy don’t care about the local impact."

But Tim Bajarin, president of consultancy Creative Strategies, said cancellation was prudent with all the unknowns surrounding how the new virus is spread and the fact that many companies had already pulled out.

These days, most big companies hold their own product launch events anyway, as Samsung did Tuesday in San Francisco. But Bajarin said Mobile World Congress was still an opportunity for many people in the mobile industry to meet in one place.

"It allowed for a lot of networking and business dealings, so in that context, it was a significant loss," he said.

The GSMA, the wireless trade body that organizes the fair, had said it was meeting regularly with global and Spanish health experts and its partners to ensure the well-being of attendees. It had already urged participants to avoid handshakes and planned to step up cleaning and disinfecting and make sure speakers don't use the same microphone.

Earlier Wednesday, Nokia said it had decided to withdraw “after a full assessment of the risks related to a fast-moving situation.” The company said “the health and well-being of employees was a primary focus” and that canceling its involvement was a “prudent decision."

The departures of Nokia and Ericsson had left China's Huawei, a major sponsor of the fair, as the only remaining major network gear maker still planning to attend. But even Huawei was scaling back by assigning European staff to the show instead. Its chairman had planned to hold a media briefing by video because he wouldn't get to Spain with enough time to undergo a two-week self-quarantine period.

Organizers were caught between risking potential backlash over public health concerns if they went ahead or facing big financial losses if they canceled, said Stephen Mears, a research analyst at Futuresource Consulting.

Even before the cancellation, Mears said his five-person team was considering dropping out or shortening the trip as many participants they wanted to meet wouldn't be there, including those from China, which accounts for an increasing share of the global smartphone and mobile network industry.

“It's becoming less and less valuable for people like us to attend if we're not able to get meetings with the high-level executives," he said.

Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, said companies now have to figure out “the best way to salvage something from this difficult situation.”

Randy Nelson, head of insights at mobile data firm Sensor Tower, said his company had planned on having a booth at Mobile World Congress. He said his firm expected to recoup the exhibiting fees since it hadn't pulled out, but had not heard from organizers yet.

While the cancellation was a disappointment, Nelson said, the work that went into planning for the show can still be useful for future events, including the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco in March.

___

Mae Anderson reported from New York. Joseph Wilson in Barcelona, Spain, and AP Medical Writer Maria Cheng in London contributed to this report.

___

Read all the AP stories about China's coronavirus outbreak and the worldwide reaction to it at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP World News, AP Business, AP Business - Corporate News, AP Technology News
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
BP lays out long-term ambition to achieve net-zero emissions
Energy company BP says it aims to eliminate or offset all carbon emissions from its operations and the oil and gas it sells to customers by 2050
3:26PM ( 11 minutes ago )
The Latest: Biden raises $4M since lackluster Iowa caucuses
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has raised $4 million since his lackluster performance during the Iowa caucuses and will run radio ads in Nevada and South Carolina as part of a retooled strategy
3:25PM ( 12 minutes ago )
Baltimore shooting leaves 2 officers wounded; suspect dead
A shooting in Baltimore has left two fugitive task force officers wounded and a suspect dead
3:19PM ( 18 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
US on track for first $1 trillion budget deficit since 2012
US budget deficit through first four months of this budget year up 19% from the same period a year ago, putting the country on track to record its first $1 trillion deficit since 2012
2:47PM ( 50 minutes ago )
Ford recalls over 240K vehicles to fix suspension problem
Ford is recalling over 240,000 SUVs and cars worldwide because a suspension part can fracture and increase the risk of a crash
2:34PM ( 1 hour ago )
Virus worries forces cancelation of major tech show in Spain
Organizers of the world’s biggest mobile technology fair are pulling the plug over worries about the viral outbreak from China
2:22PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Business
Spanish police arrest former oil executive sought by Mexico
The former head of Mexico's state oil company has been arrested in Spain on a international warrant issued by Mexico
12:05PM ( 3 hours ago )
Solid earnings send stock indexes higher on Wall Street
U.S. stocks marched higher in midday trading Wednesday and extended a rally as investors focus on the latest batch of mostly solid corporate earnings
11:53AM ( 3 hours ago )
CVS Health swings to 4Q profit, lays out leadership changes
CVS Health swung to a fourth-quarter profit and is starting the new year with a management shakeup for its largest business
11:06AM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Business - Corporate News
Big tech fair in doubt after more companies quit over virus
The world's biggest wireless trade fair was thrown into doubt Wednesday after more big tech companies and mobile carriers including Nokia, Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom pulled out over worries about the viral outbreak from China
10:40AM ( 4 hours ago )
Big tech fair in doubt after more companies leave over virus
The world's biggest wireless trade fair was in doubt Wednesday after a more big tech companies and mobile carriers including Nokia, Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom pulled out over worries about the viral outbreak from China
8:22AM ( 7 hours ago )
UK announces plan to fine firms for harmful online content
The British government will give regulators the power to fine social media companies for harmful material on their platforms. Plans announced Wednesday would give the U.K. telecommunications watchdog power to enforce a “duty of care” on companies such as Facebook and Twitter “to protect users from harmful and illegal terrorist and child abuse content
6:13AM ( 9 hours ago )
AP Technology News
BP lays out long-term ambition to achieve net-zero emissions
Energy company BP says it aims to eliminate or offset all carbon emissions from its operations and the oil and gas it sells to customers by 2050
3:26PM ( 11 minutes ago )
The Latest: Biden raises $4M since lackluster Iowa caucuses
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has raised $4 million since his lackluster performance during the Iowa caucuses and will run radio ads in Nevada and South Carolina as part of a retooled strategy
3:25PM ( 12 minutes ago )
Baltimore shooting leaves 2 officers wounded; suspect dead
A shooting in Baltimore has left two fugitive task force officers wounded and a suspect dead
3:19PM ( 18 minutes ago )
White House tries to assure Congress over withheld money
A key White House figure in delaying aid to Ukraine last year has reassured lawmakers that the Trump administration realizes it is required under the law to spend money approved by Congress
3:18PM ( 19 minutes ago )
The Latest: Warren pulls TV advertising from South Carolina
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren is pulling TV advertising from South Carolina just over two weeks out from the state's primary
3:18PM ( 20 minutes ago )