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Missed call? Counting the cost of no-show Mobile World Congress

Missed name? Counting the cost of no-show Mobile World Congress

BERLIN (Reuters) – For an occasion meant to showcase the energy of telecoms, cancelling this yr’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and not using a back-up plan has perplexed many in the trillion-dollar sector.

A person rides at Fira de Barcelona after the Mobile World Congress (MWC) was cancelled, in Barcelona, Spain February 13, 2020. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

Wednesday’s determination to name off the telecoms business’s largest annual gathering over fears of coronavirus, which has but to achieve mainland Spain, has left a gap in advertising budgets and dealt a $500 million blow to the native financial system.

It has additionally raised questions on whether or not the four-day occasion, which drew 110,000 guests final yr, has turn into too huge for its personal good, whereas lacking a possibility to make use of the very communications know-how that it’s meant to spotlight.

Sony and Nokia mentioned after pulling out of the occasion that they might maintain product launches on-line as an alternative, whereas South Korea’s Samsung Electronics showcased a brand new folding telephone at separate occasion in San Francisco final week.

The disaster started eight days in the past when South Korea’s LG Electronics turned the first firm to scratch, triggering a spate of cancellations.

“The whole idea, that we’ve got to get tens of thousands of people together to meet, goes out of the window,” Mike Rosenberg, an affiliate professor at the IESE enterprise college in Barcelona, mentioned of the determination to cancel February’s occasion.

Rosenberg, who makes a speciality of disaster technique and situation planning, mentioned that with China nonetheless battling the worst of the coronavirus outbreak, the GSMA’s subsequent huge convention in Shanghai this summer season may be in danger.

The Chinese province at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak reported a report rise in deaths and 1000’s extra circumstances on Thursday underneath a brand new diagnostic technique, elevating contemporary questions on the scale of the disaster.

Spain has to this point solely reported two coronavirus circumstances – one in the Canary Islands off northwest Africa and a second on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca.


While main exhibitors can bear the cost, a whole lot of smaller corporations for whom MWC is the huge occasion on their advertising agenda might imagine twice about returning, analysts mentioned.

“Now they face the challenge of having to figure out what the best way to salvage something,” Ben Wood, chief of analysis at consultants CCS Insight, mentioned.

In a present of unity, the GSMA’s management held a joint information convention with native leaders on Thursday, vowing to work to stage subsequent yr’s version of the occasion, which has been held in Barcelona since 2006.

But Director General Mats Granryd confronted powerful questioning from reporters after conceding that insurance coverage that the GSMA takes out on behalf of exhibitors doesn’t cowl an occasion like the coronavirus outbreak.

“Clearly there is no way you can insure yourself out of a force majeure situation,” Granryd mentioned.

Ramon Fernandez, CFO of French operator Orange, mentioned cancellation was “going to cost us a bit of cash, similar to it’s going to cost a bit of cash to all those that had deliberate to go.

“We’ll discover a solution to proceed the dialogue,” he added. “A number of those who had planned to go have written us to say: ‘Let’s meet up in Paris since we won’t be able to see each other in Barcelona.’ Agendas are filling up at lightning speed.”

Communicating its determination additionally examined the GSMA’s public relations machine. Even as cancellations snowballed and discuss circulated on Wednesday that a determination to cancel was imminent, the GSMA was nonetheless sending out media invites.

Slideshow (four Images)

The closing blow got here when the European telecoms companies that type its core membership pulled out as a bloc, forcing the GSMA to bow to the inevitable.

Granryd informed workers in an electronic mail he was “deeply saddened”.

“The team working through this crisis have been fact-based, took appropriate measures and communicated both externally and internally in real time.”

Additional reporting by Jordi Rubio and May Ponzo in Barcelona, Isla Binnie in Madrid and Mathieu Rosemain in Paris; Editing by Alexander Smith

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