Over 20% of US firms in China back to normal operations: Poll

Passengers at a railway station in Wuhan on Tuesday, after China announced that a lockdown would be lifted on more than 50 million people in Hubei province. As the rest of the world continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic, some semblance of norm
Passengers at a railway station in Wuhan on Tuesday, after China announced that a lockdown would be lifted on more than 50 million people in Hubei province. As the rest of the world continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic, some semblance of normalcy has at least returned in China, where the coronavirus first emerged late last year. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BEIJING • More than one-fifth of American companies in China are back to normal operations after widespread disruptions caused by the coronavirus epidemic, a survey showed yesterday.

Nearly a quarter of the 119 respondents to the survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in China said they expected a return to normal operations by the end of next month, although another fifth expect delays throughout the summer.

"This is one of the areas that I think provides some sense of optimism," chamber president Alan Beebe said at a news conference accompanying the survey's release.

The Covid-19 outbreak began in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, causing massive disruptions to business operations, supply chains and economic activity. It has killed more than 3,200 people and infected more than 81,000 in China alone.

Half of the respondents to the survey are experiencing revenue declines of over 10 per cent, and 14 per cent reported losing at least a half-million yuan (S$102,200) per day as a result of delays to reopening businesses.

The survey also highlighted the reliance of American companies on China's small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which have been slowest to get back to work and are most vulnerable to cash-flow disruptions.

"Longer-term policy measures aren't enough for the little guys," said chamber chairman Greg Gilligan, warning that some may not make it long enough to see government support.

Eight in 10 respondents said SMEs contribute up to half of annual revenues, and over a 10th said 75 per cent or more of their supply chain depends on SMEs.

The chamber is calling for its members to directly support their SME suppliers and customers, Mr Beebe said.

The survey, conducted between March 13 and 18, also showed firms have a more pessimistic outlook compared with a previous survey last month. Almost 40 per cent said demand for their products is down, compared with 22 per cent last month.

Half of the 119 respondents to the survey are experiencing revenue declines of over 10 per cent, and 14 per cent reported losing at least a half-million yuan (S$102,200) per day as a result of delays to reopening businesses.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 26, 2020, with the headline 'Over 20% of US firms in China back to normal operations: Poll'. Print Edition | Subscribe