Fourth China virus outbreak death spooks global markets

The outbreak has been traced to a seafood market in the city of Wuhan. (AFP)
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Updated 21 January 2020

Fourth China virus outbreak death spooks global markets

SHANGHAI: China’s fourth reported coronavirus death sent jitters through Asian markets as hundreds of millions of Chinese prepared for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Health authorities around the world stepped up screening and the World Health Organization (WHO) called a meeting on Wednesday to consider declaring an international health emergency, as China confirmed the virus spread through human contact.

Asian shares fell as investors likened the outbreak to the 2002/2003 spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), another coronavirus which broke out in China and killed nearly 800 people worldwide.

China’s yuan was down nearly half a percent and on track for its worst day in a month, while airline and travel stocks fell across the region.

“Because of Chinese New Year, millions of people will make a move to their hometown across China which is making the whole situation uncontrollable,” said Margaret Yang, an analyst at brokerage CMC Markets in Singapore, referring to the Chinese holiday period which formally begins on Friday.

“The selloff is just the beginning, we will see more in days to come.”

The number of known cases more than tripled on Monday to 223, mostly in the central city of Wuhan where the outbreak began, but also in Beijing and Shanghai, Chinese officials said. There were also two in Thailand, one in Japan and one in South Korea.

A fourth person died on Jan. 19, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said on Tuesday. The 89-year-old man, who had underlying health issues including heart disease, developed symptoms on Jan. 13 and was admitted to hospital five days later, it added.

Chinese authorities on Monday confirmed for the first time that the virus could spread through human contact and said 15 medical staff had been infected.

Investigations into the origin of the virus are still in progress, but the WHO said the primary source was likely animals, with Chinese officials linking the outbreak to a seafood market in Wuhan.

“The outbreak of a SARS-like coronavirus in Wuhan is developing into a major potential economic risk to the Asia-Pacific region now that there is medical evidence of human-to-human transmission,” said Rajiv Biswas, Asia Pacific chief economist for IHS Markit, in an email statement.

“Since the 2003 SARS crisis, China’s international tourism has boomed, so the risks of a global SARS-like virus epidemic spreading globally have become even more severe.”

Zhong Nanshan, head of the National Health Commission’s team of experts investigating the outbreak, said on state TV on Monday there was no danger of a repeat of the SARS epidemic so long as precautions were taken.

The outbreak was still in its early stages and China had good surveillance and quarantine systems to help control it, he added.

Australia on Tuesday said it would screen passengers on flights from Wuhan, while Singapore announced it would quarantine individuals with pneumonia and a history of travel to Wuhan within 14 days before onset of symptoms.

In Shanghai, officials on Tuesday confirmed a second case involving a 35-year-man who had visited Wuhan in early January, and said they were monitoring four other suspected cases.

The virus can cause pneumonia, with symptoms including fever and difficulty breathing — similar to other respiratory diseases posing complications for screening efforts.

So far, the WHO has not recommended trade or travel restrictions but such measures could be discussed at Wednesday’s emergency meeting.

Wuhan officials have been using infrared thermometers to screen passengers at airports, railway stations and other passenger terminals since Jan. 14. Airport authorities in the US as well as most Asian nations also are screening passengers from Wuhan.

However, Australia’s chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, said recent evidence indicated body-temperature screening was ineffective and created a false sense of security.


Automechanika Riyadh opens, featuring leading global suppliers

Updated 22 min 36 sec ago

Automechanika Riyadh opens, featuring leading global suppliers

  • Saudi auto deals grew 40 percent last year with influx of female buyers

RIYADH: Leading names in the global auto services industry are out in force at Automechanika Riyadh — which opened on Monday at Al Faisaliah Hotel — vying to increase their share of a growing market expected to reach a value of $10.15 billion by 2023.

Automechanika Riyadh is the regional arm of the world’s largest trade fair, congress and event organizer, Messe Frankfurt, which has licensed the Automechanika brand to event organizer Al Harithy Company for Exhibitions (ACE) Group.

Mansour Abdullah Al-Shathri, vice chairman of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce, inaugurated the trade event, which will run from Feb. 24-26.

It was revealed that Saudi auto deals grew approximately 40 percent last year, with female buyers accounting for between 10-15 percent of sales after the landmark decision to allow women to drive in the Kingdom for the first time.  

“International suppliers are stepping up their marketing for the resurgence in Saudi’s market, and this impacts the entire supply chain,” said Mahmut Gazi Bilikozen, show director for Automechanika Riyadh.

“While there is growth potential in the market, it is becoming a more competitive landscape and one which will also have to contend with evolving customer preferences. The conditions are ripe for new business relationships for those wishing to succeed in this transformative environment,” he added.

Zahoor Siddique, vice president of ACE, said: “Future vehicles will become more complex and challenging for the aftermarket industry. It is therefore imperative for manufacturers, local garages, technicians and mechanics to upskill and remain above the curve. 

 “Automechanika Riyadh is one such platform that can enable us to share and learn what the industry needs to unleash its potential.”

Two major US players — disc pad producer Giant Manufacturing and United Motors Mopar, the Kingdom’s sole distributor of Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Fiat cars — forecast a bullish market over the next few years.

Giant’s vice president, Eli Youssian, said he believed car sales in the Kingdom would grow by 9 percent annually until 2025, while United Motors District CEO Hassan Elshamarani expected another three million female drivers to be on the Kingdom’s roads by the end of the year.

Both Giant and United Motors launched new products at the show, with the former rolling out its new German-engineered Euro Premium Metallic Disc brake pads, and the latter introducing its Magneti Marelli spare parts.

The high potential of the new-look Saudi automotive landscape has also struck a major chord with South Korean suppliers.

The show’s Korean pavilion is hosting new-to-market entrants and existing suppliers all looking for business partners. With products from wiper blades to filters and air-conditioning parts to brake pads, the Korean contingent was positive about the Kingdom’s prospects.

One exhibitor, D Only Automotive, is looking to ring fence 10 percent of the Saudi brake market. “With more vehicles on the road, demand for brakes will increase, (so) we believe this is possible,” said President Jeon JaeWon.

Global research and analytics firm Aranca — Automechanika’s knowledge partner — has forecast that Saudi Arabia’s automotive spare parts and service market will grow at approximately 6 percent over the next five years to reach a value of $10.15 billion by 2023.

“The spare parts and service market for passenger cars alone is expected to eclipse $6.9 billion by 2023,” said Vishal Sanghavi, Aranca’s automotive practice head.