February 7, 2020 / 4:18 AM / 18 days ago

UPDATE 1-Australia's Flight Centre Travel flags coronavirus impact to earnings

(Adds details on forecast, outbreak, share movement)

Feb 7 (Reuters) - Australia’s Flight Centre Travel Group on Friday warned a coronavirus outbreak was affecting travel patterns in its early second half, making it tough to achieve its 2020 forecast.

The travel services provider had pegged its underlying profit before tax (PBT) forecast for fiscal 2020 at between A$310 million and A$350 million ($208 million and $235 million).

“The impact has largely been felt in our greater China corporate travel businesses, given that business activity and the country’s inbound and outbound travel sectors have been temporarily shut,” Managing Director Graham Turner said.

Though it was too early to predict the virus’ overall impact, the Brisbane-based firm said, the disease had already hit its small corporate travel operations in China, Malaysia and Singapore.

In mainland China, the number of deaths from the virus outbreak stood at 636 by Thursday, more than doubling in just under a week, with infections at 31,161.

The company is encouraging employees to take leave over the next few weeks to reduce the impact on its business in mainland China and Hong Kong, it added in its statement.

For the six months to Dec. 31, Flight Centre expects to report an underlying PBT between A$100 million and A$105 million, slightly above the mid-point of its forecast range.

Its shares fell as much as 3.8% to A$39.16, its worst daily performance in 10 days. ($1=1.4890 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Shriya Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru)

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