HMD Global and Nokia became the latest big name companies to pull out of this month’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona because of the coronavirus outbreak, adding to the likelihood the trade fair could be scrapped. HMD Global is the Nokia mobile brand licensee, and its exit marks another big blow for MWC 2020. Nokia on the other hand, is one of the world’s largest telecom companies, and its departure is also significant. Other companies that have recently announced their cancellation include LG, Vivo, Sony, MediaTek, Nvidia, Ericsson, Intel, AT&T, Sprint, Amazon, Amdocs, and Cisco. Deutsche Telekom is also claimed to have withdrawn, though an official statement is pending.

In a statement, HMD Global cites prioritising the health and safety of its employees, customers, and stakeholders as the main reason behind its departure from MWC 2020. However, there is no word regarding the launch status of Nokia-branded products that were set to debut at MWC 2020. In an official statement, HMD says it has been monitoring the coronavirus outbreak situation closely and has decided to skip the MWC 2020 after much deliberation.

Here’s an excerpt from the Finnish company’s official statement: “MWC Barcelona has always been a key event in our annual calendar and we were very excited to showcase our new products to our partners, customers, media and fans. However, the health and safety of our employees, customers, and stakeholders is our highest priority.”

Franco-Italian chipmaker STMicroelectronics also joined the list of absentees on Wednesday, scheduled to take place on February 24-27. The event is the telecoms industry’s biggest annual gathering, with companies spending millions on stands and hospitality to fill their order books.

A source familiar with the matter said Deutsche Telekom, Germany’s largest telecoms company, would not attend, adding an official announcement by other European telecoms operators was possible later in the day.

Telecoms equipment maker Nokia said it believed it was a “prudent decision” to cancel its participation. “Nokia plans to go directly to customers with a series of “Nokia Live” events aimed at showcasing the industry-leading demos and launches scheduled for MWC,” the Finnish company said in a statement, setting out its alternative plans.

Even after a spate of withdrawals, with US exhibitors pulling out en masse on Tuesday, the GSMA has so far stood by its line that the event will go ahead. The GSMA board, comprising industry executives, will convene on Friday to review its options, sources said.



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