The annual mobile communications show in Barcelona, Mobile World Congress (MWC), just had another major participant cancel weeks before the show opening on February 24. LG announced it was withdrawing from the conference.
LG's stated reason is to "prevent needlessly exposing hundreds of LG employees to international travel." However, the more plausible explanation is that the company is more concerned about having its employees in close proximity to all the people expected to participate from Chinese firms.
According to original registration records, over 200 Chinese companies were expected to exhibit at Mobile World Congress, including the powerhouse Huawei. The company was just starting to build off the good news that the U.K. had deflected U.S. pressure and would use Huawei's equipment in its 5G wireless networks. Now the coronavirus threatens to dampen any 5G enthusiasm the company may have been hoping to generate at MWC.
(Automakers and consumer electronics companies that rely on Chinese-made parts are also concerned.)
Could there be more withdrawals from the show? Definitely.
Several airlines have already canceled regular flights in and out of China, making it more difficult for companies to participate. And one only has to go back to 2003 when the SARS outbreak caused the postponement of the June Computex trade show in Taipei (it went on later in September).
So far, GSMA, the organizers of MWC, have said the show must go on.