March 25, 2020 / 3:11 AM / 6 days ago

One fifth of American companies in China back to normal operations: survey

BEIJING (Reuters) - 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 Wednesday.

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

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

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

Half of the 119 respondents to the survey are experiencing revenue declines of over 10%, and 14% reported losing at least a half-million yuan ($70,784) per day as a result of delays to re-opening businesses.

The survey also highlighted the reliance of American companies on China’s small and medium-sized businesses (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 Greg Gilligan, the chamber’s chair, warning that some may not make it long enough to see government support.

Eight in ten respondents said SMEs contribute up to half of annual revenues, and over a tenth said that 75% or more of their supply chain depends on SMEs.

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

Reporting by Gabriel Crossley. Editing by Gerry Doyle

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