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Eighty-one percent of Kiwi businesses surveyed by NZ Business Roundtable in China expect the coronavirus outbreak to lead to at least a ten percent downturn in 2020 China revenue. 

The NZ Business Roundtable in China (NZBRiC) has released results from a survey of 170 New Zealand businesses trading with China. The survey quantified the material impact of the COVID-19 outbreak for Kiwi businesses with exposure to China.  

Eighty-one percent of respondents expected China export revenue to be down at least ten percent in 2020, with 87 percent expecting the reduction to take place in the first quarter.

Of these, almost one third expected at least a 40 percent reduction in Q1, although just 11 percent expected this level of impact to last for the full 2020 financial year results.

The survey was conducted between 10-16 February to provide clarity around how New Zealand businesses trading with China are faring during these unique times.  

“The COVID-19 outbreak is expected to have a significant impact on New Zealand companies doing business in China. While most of the downturn is expected to be the first quarter, more than four in five Kiwi exporters expect 2020 to end with China revenue down at least 10 percent”.  – Ivan Kinsella, NZBRiC Chair.  

While there was significant uncertainty surrounding the containment of the COVID-19 virus, most respondents expected the issue to clear up within the next six months. Nevertheless, 58 percent were still taking a ‘wait-and-see’ approach to evaluating their longer-term China strategy.  

The most common concerns were general and supply chain disruption, the slowdown of operations and revenue, and the inability to travel for business. Respondents’ personal health, and their staff’s safety also featured prominently. 

The most common change in business behaviour from the COVID-19 outbreak was cancelling business trips, which 81 percent of respondents had already experienced. Fifty-seven percent had adopted work from home practices. Half expected to rely more heavily on ecommerce and digital channels in future. 

“China’s forceful quarantine measures taken to contain the spread of the virus have heavily impacted production and supply chain reliability. Once the restrictions are removed the economy is expected to bounce back quickly although it might not regain all of the lost ground,” says NZBRiC Chair Ivan Kinsella.     



• In Q1, 87% expected that the COVID-19 outbreak will lead to at least a 10% hit to their China revenue. 31% of businesses expected at least a 40% negative impact – the largest group of respondents – while just 4% expected the outbreak to have a positive impact. 

• When looking at the possible impact on the full 2020 financial year results, 81% expected at least a 10% downturn. Of these, 11% expected revenue to be down more than 40%. The largest group (42%) expected a negative impact in the 10-15% range while 8% expect a positive impact over the 2020 financial year. 

• 50% expected to rely more heavily on ecommerce/digital channels as a result of the COVID-19. 

• 60% of businesses expect the COVID-19 outbreak to negatively impact their business for 6 months or less. The most commonly held view was an impact lasting 3-6 months, expected by 45% of respondents. 9% expected the downturn to last for more than 9 months while 12% were not sure.

• The majority of respondents – 58% – said that it was too early to re-evaluate their longer-term China strategy as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, while 10% had already started doing so. 32% said they were not planning to change their strategy.  

• General and supply chain disruption, the slowdown of operations and revenue, and the inability to travel were the most common business concerns raised, although personal health and staff safety also featured prominently. Staff availability, retention and keeping them engaged were common issues. A number of respondents were also worried about the overall impact on the global economy and its interconnectivity. Two China-based respondents highlighted the challenges resulting from a loss in confidence in their companies’ China business from New Zealand-based decision makers. 

• The main measures NZ companies are adopting to mitigate the COVID-19 outbreak are: 

  • 81% cancelling/postponing business trips to and from China/Asia
  • 57% adopting work from home practices  
  • 52% cancelling events
  • 45% introducing additional health and hygiene measures in the office
  • 44% having regular two-way communications about the virus with the team
  • 35% changing meeting policy to just phone and vidcon
  • 23% had temporary office, factory and store closures  in China/Asia
  • 15% implemented the rollout of online collaborative working apps
  • 9% had relocated non-native staff from China/HK. 

• Most respondents didn’t comment on government policies that would assist with their business operations, although China-based respondents had higher expectations from the Chinese government taking such measures. Transparency in communications, customs support and operational facilitation were the most requested areas of support. Reduction in taxes/social insurance and other operational expenses were also desired. 

• A total of 170 NZ respondents, representing all major export sectors completed the survey. Around one third of respondents were based in China while two–thirds were in NZ.  A similar survey from the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai received 127 responses.  


NZ exporters should visit NZTE’s site: for NZ-relevant updates on the COVID-19 outbreak in China.

Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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