As with most health scares, airlines were hit extra hard, particularly the Chinese air carriers. China Southern Airlines Co. Ltd. (NYSE: ZNH) saw its ADSs fall 2.5% to $29.59 on Friday, but the loss for the week was more than 13%, and that translates to over $1 billion in losses to the then-current $9.9 billion level. That was down another 7% on Monday to $27.52. China Eastern Airlines Corp. Ltd.’s (NYSE: CEA) ADSs fell 1.4% to $24.09 on Friday, down over 12% for the last week. Its shares were down another 7% to $22.40 on Monday.
The U.S. air carriers even took a hit as all three majors have made allowances for schedule changes for flights in and out of China. United Airlines Holdings Inc. (NYSE: UAL) saw a 3.5% price drop on Friday to $81.90, with an even larger drop of 4.6% to $78.10 on Monday. American Airlines Group Inc. (NASDAQ: AAL) fell 4.0% to $27.64 on Friday and another 5.1% to $26.25 on Monday. Delta Airlines Inc. (NYSE: DAL) fell the least of the big three, with a 2.4% drop to $58.81 on Friday, but it was down another 3.7% to $56.65 on Monday.
Being a life insurer in a potential pandemic may not be the safest play in finance. China Life Insurance Co. Ltd. (NYSE: LFC) is worth $115 billion, even after losing 1.6% on Friday and losing close to 8.4% from the prior week’s closing bell. That’s roughly a loss of $10 billion in market cap for the week. Its U.S.-listed shares were down another 4.4% to $12.40 on Monday, with a market cap of closer to $111 billion.
If schools are closing or are at risk of closure, it’s bad business for the major educators as well. New Oriental Education & Technology Group Inc. (NYSE: EDU) saw a 3.4% drop to $124.61 on Friday, but the top Chinese education company had been above $135 the prior week. New Oriental was down another 2% at $122.05 on Monday. TAL Education Group (NASDAQ: TAL) fell 3.6% to $46.68 on Friday, and that is down from $54.00 the prior week. It was one of the surprise winners with a 2.4% gain to $47.80 on Monday. Those two companies saw a combined $1.6 billion or so in market cap loss just on Friday, and more than a $2 billion loss over last week.
If travel is down, so is the need for hotels, and hotels are often avoided during health scares. Huazhu Group Ltd. (NASDAQ: HTHT), a hotel operator in China, saw a 2.5% drop to $32.31 on Friday, but this was down from above $39 just a week earlier. That’s close to $2 billion in market cap lost in a week. Huazhu was up 2.3% at $33.05 on Monday
Trip.com Group Ltd. (NASDAQ: TCOM), the leader in online travel (including Ctrip.com), saw its shares drop by 6.9% to $31.90 on Friday, and this was a $39 stock just the week before. The company has allowed for expanded cancellations in hotels. That’s a loss of about $1.3 billion in market cap just on Friday, and a weekly loss of closer to $4.5 billion. While it was down as low as about $29 on Monday morning, its shares had come back to show a gain of just over 1% to $32.20 in midday trading.
Taking cruises during major health scares is frowned upon. Ships have been the source of many illnesses, without larger public health scares, and passengers might not be as hygienic as they should be when they are in close quarters with a couple thousand other people all touching the same handles and railings. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (NASDAQ: NCLH) was down 3% at $54.13 on Monday, and that’s down from $59.00 at the start of last week. Carnival Corp. (NYSE: CCL) was down almost 4% at $45.70 on Monday, and that was a $51.00 less than a full week ago. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (NYSE: RCL) was the hardest hit on Monday with a 6% drop to $118.90, and which is down from $135.00 just about 10 days ago.
Trying to compare losses in market capitalization is definitely not the same as true economic costs against the broader economy. But when you see the outright curtailing of operations and a “let’s stay in” mentality taking hold, it becomes impossible to believe that China’s gross domestic product will not feel an impact if these trends continue (or get worse) over the next few days. This all adds up to a negative impact on wages, sharply lower consumer spending, lower transportation trends, lower overall business trends and so on. Suddenly the multiple billions of dollars of real economic impact will bite into GDP of the massive Chinese economy — and potentially the U.S. economy if the coronavirus becomes a larger concern here.
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