Travel Curbed at Nestle, L’Oreal, Cargill as Virus Spreads
(Bloomberg) -- Employers ranging from the world’s largest trader of farm crops to the biggest food and beverage company have suspended business travel, a decision that may help curb the spread of coronavirus but hasten a hit to the global economy.
The names and products of companies cutting or limiting travel are familiar worldwide. Nestle SA, the Swiss maker of KitKat snack bars and Nespresso capsules, told employees to avoid traveling until at least mid-March. A similar recommendation at L’Oreal SA, the cosmetics owner of global brands like Lancome and Maybelline, extends through March 31.
Nestle, the employer of 291,000 people worldwide, was one of the first multinational companies to take the decisive step as the virus seeded in new countries including Brazil, stoking concerns about a pandemic. Now the number is growing rapidly: Among the latest is crop trader Cargill Inc., which has banned travel for at least two weeks.
The virus has infected more than 82,000 people and killed at least 2,800 since emerging in central China at the end of last year. It has spread to over 40 countries in less than two months.
In the absence of global health guidelines, companies have to devise their own plans for keeping employees safe. British American Tobacco Plc, the maker of Lucky Strike cigarettes, said it reduced travel to the bare minimum while America’s top farm co-op, CHS, suspended travel outside of employees’ home country.
Coca-Cola Co. and Kraft Heinz Co. have opted to avoid affected countries, while Petrobras, Brazil’s state-controlled energy giant, said it has suspended employee travel to China and Japan.
The travel curbs are bound to hit industries from airlines to hotels that are already reeling from China’s drastic response. Air France-KLM last week warned that the outbreak will wipe as much as 200 million euros ($219 million) from earnings.
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Nestle said it “shares global concerns over the spread and impact on public health of coronavirus.” The virus spreads mainly through droplets contained in coughs and sneezes.
Companies in other sectors have also canceled events or encouraged working from home to minimize employees’ exposure. German power company RWE AG said it’s canceling all large internal and external events that aren’t absolutely necessary.
Not so in the fashion industry. In Paris, most luxury goods makers declined to cancel or reschedule their spring fashion shows, which attract models, buyers, and press from around the world. Many participants at runway shows including Kering’s Saint Laurent or LVMH’s Christian Dior came directly from Milan Fashion Week, and, when questioned, appeared to be unaware of the recommendation from France’s health ministry that they wear a mask in public.
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