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US businesses fear revenues from China will halve due to coronavirus

By Philip Smith

Travel restrictions, a shortage of protective wear and enforced quarantine is hitting productivity, says a survey

Nearly half of US businesses with operations in China say they expect revenues from the region to fall this year due to the coronavirus.

According to a survey conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce in China, 20 per cent of businesses said those revenues will drop by more than 50 per cent unless the epidemic is contained by the end of April.

A mix of travel restrictions, factory and shop closures, and a lack of protective clothing lies behind the pessimistic projections. Even though most – 94 per cent – of businesses have implemented a work-from-home policy, some jobs require staff to be on site, notably the 291 million who live in rural areas but work in cities. Only around 30 per cent of those workers are reporting in to their jobs.

The restrictions are increasing. The latest, imposed earlier this week further limiting travel for those arriving in China coupled with periods of quarantine, will affect any non-native business. The measures are to address re-introducing the virus from affected areas such as Europe, Japan and South Korea.

ABInBev, the world's biggest brewer whose brands include Stella Artois, Budweiser, Becks and – ironically – Corona, said: "For the first two months of 2020, we estimate that the outbreak has resulted in lost revenue of approximately $285m (£220m, €260m) and lost operating profit of approximately $170m in China."

Hotel chain Marriott said the virus could cost the company $25m a month in lost revenue.

“The crisis is real, and people are prioritising the virus first and resumption of the economy second,” said chamber chairman, Greg Gilligan.

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FURTHER READING: Diageo issues profit warning as coronavirus hits consumption

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