Mobile World Congress to go ahead, LG pulls out over virus


(Reuters) – This month’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona will go ahead as planned, the organizer said, after LG Electronics withdrew due to the coronavirus outbreak and top Chinese firms confirmed their participation.

The congress on mobile communications, which attracts more than 100,000 visitors to Barcelona, has come under scrutiny since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus epidemic a public health emergency of international concern.

“We have spoken to LG and regret not to see them at this year’s MWC20 Barcelona,” a GSMA spokesperson said in response to a Reuters inquiry following the announcement by the South Korean electronics giant.

GSMA, an industry association representing more than 750 operators and 400 companies in the broader mobile economy, added that it saw minimal impact so far on the event, which would be held as scheduled on Feb 24-27.

The newly identified virus, which first appeared in Wuhan late last year, has killed nearly 500 people in China, as well as one person in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines.

Mainland China has reported more than 24,000 confirmed cases, while more than 150 cases have been confirmed in two dozen countries and regions around the world.

On Wednesday China’s Huawei Technologies said it would take part in MWC as planned. “We are keeping a close eye on matters and having to internally adjust accordingly and responsibly,” said a spokesman.

China’s ZTE Corp. and mobile phone maker Oppo said they would continue with plans to exhibit at the event while IT services provider NEC Corp said it was pushing forward with plans to attend for now.

In 2019 some 6% of Mobile World Congress attendees were from China, according to GSMA’s post-congress report. Most of its attendees were from Europe, around 64%, as were about 45% of the exhibitors.

The GSMA estimates that the Mobile World Congress boosted the local economy by around 470 million euros ($520 million) last year, as delegates pack Barcelona’s hotels, wine and dine contacts and pile into taxis to the sprawling Fira trade fair ground that hosts the event.

Reporting by Douglas Busvine, Supantha Mukherjee, writing by Ashifa Kassam, Editing by Andrei Khalip and Philippa Fletcher