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Coronavirus

Singapore Airshow loses COMAC and Bombardier over virus fears

Over a dozen exhibitors pull out of Asia's top air expo, with visitors set to fall

The Indonesian Air Force's Jupiter Aerobatic Team KT-1B performs a manoeuvre during a preview of their aerial display at the Singapore Airshow.    © Reuters

SINGAPORE -- Canada's Bombardier, U.S. business jet maker Gulfstream Aerospace and China's COMAC are among the manufacturers that have withdrawn from next week's Singapore Airshow, Asia's largest aerospace exhibition, due to concerns over the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

The six-day event starting Feb. 11 will proceed as planned, but organizer Experia Events said the recent restrictions on entry into Singapore, combined with company bans on employee travel, will "reduce the number of exhibitors and visitors."

Fifteen exhibitors had confirmed their withdrawal from the biennial event as of Tuesday, Experia said, including Cessna Aircraft parent Textron Aviation of the U.S., Canadian company CAE and Germany's Stemme.

Ten Chinese companies are among those no longer participating, including state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, better known as COMAC, an emerging rival for industry leaders Boeing and Airbus.

State-owned defense company China National Aero-Technology Import & Export has also pulled out.

The departure of the Chinese companies comes as Singapore last week barred entry into the city-state by anyone with a recent travel history to mainland China, where the coronavirus outbreak originated. The travel ban will reduce the number of buyers from China, the world's biggest aircraft market, and likely reduce opportunities for deals at the expo.

A summit on the eve of the show has also been canceled due to the outbreak. The meeting was to involve 300 industry leaders spanning governments, airport operators and carriers, including chief executives from Singapore Airlines, Vietnam Airlines and the International Air Transport Association, a trade group for carriers.

The cancellation "will allow many of the aviation leaders who are deeply involved in working out the responses to the novel coronavirus outbreak to focus on exigencies related to the ongoing situation," Experia said.

South Korea's air force aerobatic team will not participate, as part of the country's broader precautions against the coronavirus.

The expo will be held near Singapore's Changi Airport, with the first four days devoted to trade and the final two focused on the public. The official website lists over 600 exhibitors.

Body temperature screenings will be conducted on attendees at the venues, Experia said, and hand sanitizer will be available. Doctors and medics will aid visitors who feel ill.

Most companies including Boeing, Airbus and fellow aircraft maker Embraer of Brazil still plan to participate, but some may send fewer delegates in light of the virus.

This year's show takes place as Airbus grapples with a bribery scandal. Leading Southeast Asian budget carrier AirAsia, which operates exclusively with craft from the European company, said Monday that CEO Tony Fernandes has stepped aside temporarily amid a probe by authorities. Airbus is accused of making payments totaling $50 million to AirAsia executives.

The curtailing of visitors and exhibitors also risks hurting Singapore's economy, as the show is one of the major international events held in the regional air transport hub.

The most recent show, in 2018, drew about 1,000 companies from 50 countries and regions, while 80,000 visitors attended the public sessions. The expo contributed 343 million Singapore dollars ($250 million) to the city-state's economy, according to the organizer.

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