Cisco, Facebook, Sprint pull out of Barcelona meet over coronavirus fears

Reuters , Tuesday 11 Feb 2020

Cisco Systems Inc, Sprint Corp and Facebook Inc on Tuesday became the latest U.S. technology companies to pull out of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona due to the coronavirus outbreak.

A number of companies ranging from Japan's NTT Docomo and Sony Corp to U.S. chipmakers Intel Corp and Nvidia have already dropped out of the four-day international telecoms conference that draws in more than 100,000 visitors.

"While we are extremely disappointed that we cannot continue with this event as planned, we believe this is the right decision given the current circumstances," a Cisco spokeswoman said.

The virus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has spread across the world, prompting many companies to restrict travel to and from the country.

It has so far killed more than 1,000 people and infected more than 40,000 people on the Chinese mainland, while spreading to at least 24 countries.

MWC, set to kick off on Feb. 24, is the telecom industry's biggest annual gathering, with companies spending millions on stands and hospitality to fill their order books.

GSMA, the organizer of the event, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The organizer said on Sunday participants from China's Hubei province, where the coronavirus outbreak began, would not be allowed to attend the event and that visitors from China must prove they have been outside the country for at least two weeks prior to the event.

"We are more prepared than ever," said Catalan regional health councillor, Alba Verges, to local channel TV3. She added that, from a public health point of view, there is no "objective cause" for the companies to be afraid of attending.

The event is important to Barcelona, whose economy got a boost of around 470 million euros ($515 million) last year from the conference, according to GSMA.

Chinese companies, including Huawei, ZTE , Oppo and Xiaomi, are still attending the event. Inc, LG Electronics, Ericsson and McAfee have also withdrawn from exhibiting and participating in the conference. 

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