February 9, 2020 / 7:38 PM / 9 days ago

Amazon pulls out of major Barcelona telecoms conference over coronavirus

BERLIN/MADRID (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc has pulled out of this month’s Mobile World Congress because of the coronavirus outbreak, in another blow to one of the telecom industry’s biggest gatherings which attracts over 100,000 visitors to Barcelona.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Amazon is seen at the company logistics centre in Boves, France, August 8, 2018. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo

“Due to the outbreak and continued concerns about the novel coronavirus, Amazon will withdraw from exhibiting and participating in Mobile World Congress 2020,” the company said in a statement on Sunday.

Amazon had planned a significant presence through its cloud computing arm AWS, which was due to host a full-day conference track on the first day of the event.

The online retailer is the fourth company to pull out of the annual gathering this week, following South Korea’s LG Electronics, Swedish equipment maker Ericsson and U.S. chipmaker Nvidia.

The Feb. 24-27 event will go ahead as planned, the GSMA telecoms industry association, which runs the Congress, confirmed in a statement on Sunday before Amazon said it was pulling out, adding that they would tighten health precautions to guard against the coronavirus outbreak.

No visitors will be allowed to attend from China’s Hubei province, where the coronavirus outbreak started, while visitors from China must prove they have been outside the country for two weeks prior to the event, GSMA said.

Some 5,000-6,000 visitors typically come from China to the world’s premier telecoms industry gathering, where companies spend millions on stands and hospitality to fill their order books for the year ahead.

Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE have said they will attend, ordering China-based staff to self-isolate ahead of the event to ensure they are free of the illness, and drafting in European staff to cover for those stranded.

China raised the death toll from the outbreak to 811 on Sunday, passing the number killed globally by the SARS epidemic, while total confirmed cases of the illness reached 37,198.

The virus has spread to at least 27 countries and territories, according to a Reuters count based on official reports, infecting more than 330 people outside China. Two deaths have been reported outside mainland China - both of Chinese nationals.

More then two dozen large trade fairs and industry conferences in China and overseas have been postponed or hit by travel curbs and concerns about the spread of the virus, potentially disrupting billions of dollars worth of deals.

(Refiles to clarify Amazon quote)

Reporting by Douglas Busvine in Berlin and Jessica Jones in Madrid; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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