The coronavirus outbreak in China is causing the Asiamold trade show in Guangzhou to postpone the late February fair, as companies scramble with broader impacts from the spreading epidemic, including German automotive molder Webasto SE, which closed its headquarters near Munich as four of its employees have tested positive.
The Asiamold 2020 show had been scheduled for Feb. 26-28 at the China Import and Export Fair in Guangzhou, but the organizer said in a Jan. 29 statement that the event would be postponed to a date to be determined later. A companion show, the SIAF Automation Guangzhou Fair, was also being postponed, as the organizer said authorities in Guangdong Province on Jan. 24 ordered all large-scale gatherings to be suspended.
"The wellbeing of all of our stakeholders is paramount, so following the announcement by the Guangdong government to strengthen the epidemic prevention efforts by suspending all large-scale trade and economic events, we immediately began taking steps to postpone these two fairs to a later date," Hubert Duh, chairman of fair organizer Guangzhou Guangya Messe Frankfurt Co. Ltd., said. "We are in communication with the relevant government authorities and venue owners about rescheduling the fairs later this year, but due to the evolving situation in the country, it is too early to provide any details on this."
The virus has killed at least 132 and sickened more than 6,000 in confirmed cases, mostly in China as it's spread from the city of Wuhan. Authorities have been limiting travel to try to contain the outbreak but it has shown it can be transmitted to people who have not been to China recently, as the Webasto case shows.
Webasto said Jan. 28 that it is closing its headquarters in Stockdorf, Germany, after four employees in Germany tested positive for the virus.
A maker of sunroofs, polycarbonate moldings and lithium-ion battery packs, the company had an employee from Shanghai, whose parents are from Wuhan, visit the Stockdorf site. It has said the employee had no symptoms until the flight home.
Four workers who came in contact with the employee from Shanghai have since gotten sick.
"At the moment, we are investigating the colleagues who were in contact with them," CEO Holger Engelmann said in a news release.
Webasto had already canceled any travel to China and it has now closed Stockdorf until Feb. 2. It also has started systematic testing of other contacts by a team of doctors from the public health department.
Other auto suppliers also canceled travel to China. Inteva Products LLC, which previously halted travel to the Wuhan area, expanded that halt to travel anywhere in China.
Companies in China outside the Wuhan region are assessing the impact but many, like Hong Kong-based machinery maker and plastics processor Cosmos Machinery Enterprises Ltd., say they expect business to slow.
While none of the company's employees have contracted the virus, its factories are following government instructions to delay reopening after the Chinese New Year holiday, said Stephen Wong, executive vice chairman.
"With the stringent control taken to slow down the flow of people coming back to work, our factories in Wuxi, Dongguan, Zhuhai and Hefei will extend our spring holiday till February 9," Wong said. "Meanwhile, we are asking our colleagues to remain at home or hometown, if possible."
"The situation may last for a while and we trust our government ... to keep the loss to a minimum," Wong said.
German machinery maker KraussMaffei Group GmbH, which is owned by China National Chemical Corp., has also taken steps over the course of the outbreak to reduce impact.
The company, based in Munich, has approximately 460 employees in China. It has one factory in Haiyan and an office in Shanghai. Travel to and from China has been halted and starting next week white-collar employees will work from home, KraussMaffei spokesman Uli Pecher said in emailed responses to Plastics News.
"Workers must stay at home," he said, adding that the company has started intensive communication measures via internal channels regarding prevention, hygiene and symptoms. The company is also communicating directly with employees who have been traveling in, out of or within China during the past few weeks.
Pecher said no KraussMaffei employees have contracted the coronavirus to the company's knowlege.
"We do everything in our power to implement precautionary measures and inform as quickly and often and intensively as possible," he said.
It may be early to gauge the economic impact with China normally shutting down for the Lunar New Year festivities, but the Hong Kong paper South China Morning Post quoted the Plenum Group consultancy that the disease control measures could slow economic growth by as much as 4 percentage points in the first quarter.
The next major industry event in China is the Chinaplas fair, slated for April 21-24 in Shanghai.
Plastics News reporter Audrey LaForest contributed to this story.