BARCELONA Feb 18 Delegates to this year's Mobile
World Congress in Barcelona are getting down to the business of
cost-cutting and doing what deals they can as the industry
adjusts to the new realities of the global economic downturn.
The trade fair is still the industry's biggest gathering but
it is noticeably easier to move around among thinner crowds, and
visitor numbers are reported to be down by about 9 percent.
Hotel accommodation, normally fully booked a year in
advance, was still to be found in the immediate run-up and a
spokesman for the Hotel Association in Barcelona said last week
about 17.000 of 25.000 hotel rooms available had been booked.
A Telefonica (TEF.MC) spokesman said the company had sent
about the same delegation as last year to the MWC but a manager
from Vodafone (VOD.L) in Spain said the big players had reduced
their delegations to cut costs.
Executives said meetings with customers were sober but not
"The mood is not depressed. It's more: 'Hey, let's deal with
the issue,'" said Peter Bauer, chief executive of loss-making
chipmaker Infineon (IFXGn.DE).
"They all do reduce their cost base," he said. "No one knows
exactly where the market is going."
Thomas Teckentrup, a European manager at Toshiba (6502.T),
said: "The atmosphere is probably a bit tense. People are moving
into a mode of constructive optimism. We share that very much."
Vodafone Chief Executive Vittorio Colao said the industry
needed more cooperation between operators, hardware and software
makers and handset manufacturers.
"Intrinsically we are resilient," he said, but warned there
were increasing risks as customers looked for cheaper deals.
Richard Windsor, industry specialist at Nomura, estimated
after day one that attendance was down as much as 25 percent.
"Taxi, lavatory and sandwich queues are all down
substantially on last year meaning that MWC is an accurate
reflection of life in the mobile phone industry," he wrote.
"Frankly most of the companies that we have met so far have
talked of cost cutting and survival. This is in stark contrast
to last year when the story was all about investment and
expansion," he added.
(Additional reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Hans Peters)