Wednesday, 27 September 2023

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CapitaLand and other Singapore firms temporarily cease operations in China due to viral outbreak

Due to the rising death tolls and infected cases, temporary closures of businesses in China have been announced by Singapore-listed companies, including the Property giant CapitaLand.

All four malls in Wuhan has been shut down by CapitaLand, as well as its two malls in Xi’an as ordered by the local authorities, the company said on Wednesday morning (29 Jan). The six malls will be reopened when local conditions improve. Supermarkets in CapitaMall Xindicheng in Xi’an and CapitaMall Westgate in Wuhan remain in operation so that local communities will have access to food and daily essentials.

For the 45 malls across China in Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu and Guangzhou, they will remain open with shorter hours. The operating hours will be reviewed in accordance with local regulations and conditions, according to CapitaLand.

For those whose travel plans to China have been disrupted, the company is also offering assistance to them via its lodging company The Ascott. Those with disrupted travel plans can stay longer at the premise and have their cancellation fees waived if they need to change their travel plans.

Following the guidelines from health authorities, all CapitaLand properties in China have implemented the precautionary measures. These include intensifying disinfecting and cleaning of common areas, having a designated area to isolate guests who are suspected of infection, conducting temperature checks and contact tracing.

CapitaLand Hope Foundation, the philanthropic entity of CapitaLand, has started a 10 million yuan (S$1.96 million) healthcare fund to help China’s nationwide medical and healthcare commitments against the epidemic.

In the first phase of the fund, hospitals in Wuhan will get disbursements for the purchase of testing kits, medical supplies and protective gears.

In Singapore, precautionary measures in accordance with guidelines have been implemented by CapitaLand such as boosting cleaning efforts by making hand sanitisers widely available in the properties. Added to this, predetermined routes and premises have also been designated to isolate individuals suspected of infection. There are also security teams who will escort suspected guests to the ambulance pick-up point. The company is committed to increase measures if necessary.

Also in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Building and Construction Authority of Singapore, CapitaLand will implement measures such as maintaining visitors contact information for traceability, identify and manage sick workers and maintain a site attendance record through a robust sickness surveillance process.

The company’s employees will also avoid non-critical travel to China and affected countries with suspected cases of the outbreak. Employees who came back from China are advised to monitor their temperature twice a day for two weeks, during which flexible work arrangements like teleconferencing and telecommuting should be adopted.

There is also a business continuity plans (BCP) in place, CapitaLand said on Wednesday, which will allow the group to maintain critical activities while minimising impact to operations. Operations across China and other markets will be coordinated by the newly formed special task force.

“To date, the group’s business operations, including in China and Singapore, remain largely stable. Our priority is to focus on ensuring the well-being of our tenants, shoppers, guests and employees. We are all in this together during these trying times,” the group CEO of CapitaLand, Lee Chee Koon remarked.

According to Manohar Khiatani, the assigned group BCP commander as well as the senior executive director of CapitaLand Group, working arrangements like teleconferencing, working from alternate sites and working from home are part of the plan: “Where necessary, operational personnel will be divided into primary and alternate teams. We will continue to monitor developments and the authorities’ directives, take the necessary steps to minimise impact to our operations and update our stakeholders in a timely manner.”

A day earlier on Tuesday, precautionary measures for their China branches have also been announced by another three Singapore-listed companies.

For example, three attractions in China, Lixing Cable Car, Shanghai Ocean Aquarium and Underwater World Xiamen have been temporarily shut down in an effort to curb the spread of the epidemic.

In addition, Dasin Retail Trust has also shortened the business hours for their five retail malls in China except outlets that provide basic public services like food, beverages and supermarket. Crowded places such as bookstores, cinemas, ice skating rinks and KTVs have been temporarily shut down.

Similarly, Sasseur Real Estate Investment Trust (Sasseur Reit) has also temporarily closed its four outlet malls in China.

After the long Chinese New Year weekend, Singapore-listed firms with direct ties with China suffered considerably as trading resumed.

Prior to CapitaLand’s announcement, its shares dropped 4.9 per cent or $0.19 to S$3.70. As well for Dasin Retail Trust, its shares dropped one cent or 1.2 per cent to 83.5 cent whereas Straco Corp saw its shares dropped 6.5 per cent or 10.6 per cent to 55 cents. Sasseur Reit experienced a nine cents or 10.3 per cent drop to 78.5 cents for its shares, post-announcement.

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