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Taiwan trade show suffers SARS delay

Computex Taipei, which had been expected to draw more than 20,000 foreign visitors, slips until the second half of the year because of the SARS outbreak.

The Computex Taipei trade show, which had been expected to draw more than 20,000 foreign visitors, has been postponed due to the SARS outbreak.

The Taiwan show's organizers--the China External Trade Development Board and the Taipei Computer Association--decided Wednesday to move the event to the second half of the year. Computex Taipei was set to take place from June 2 to 6.

"This decision comes after a detailed review of all factors, including fears that increased travel restrictions would negatively influence buyer turnout," the organizers said in a statement.

Kay Chang, a spokeswoman for the Taipei Computer Association, said that exhibitors and buyers had been surveyed to see what they wanted to do. Both "have shown their support for our latest announcement," she said, because of fears related to the severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.

SARS has infected 5,460 people worldwide and killed more than 350 since emerging in China late last year, according to the World Health Organization.

The postponement comes despite the marketing efforts of Taipei's mayor, Ma Ying-jeou. Last month, Ma sent out 200,000 letters to overseas buyers in a bid to reassure them Taipei is safe despite SARS.

New dates for Computex Taipei could be confirmed by the end of next month.

Computex is not the only large-scale IT event in the city to fall victim to the SARS virus. Another trade show, Softex, has also been canned. The event was supposed to start two days from now with support from more than 200 companies, including Hewlett-Packard and IBM, but since the SARS outbreak, more than 80 companies had dropped out and others had appealed for a cancellation.

The Taipei Computer Association, which also organized Softex, said it will dig into its own pockets and refund exhibitors 50 percent of their fees.

Meanwhile, the fate of Singapore's CommunicAsia show hangs in the balance. Its organizers are due to make an announcement this week.

All three regional trade shows are heavily dependent on overseas visitors, the numbers of which have dwindled steeply since the arrival of the flulike virus.

CNETAsia's John Lui and Winston Chai reported from Singapore.