Risk Management

Swine Flu Hits Financials, Safe Harbor Statements

Burger King says the outbreak, coupled with existing economic woes, caused more conservative fourth quarter guidance. Others cite swine flu as a ri...
Tim ReasonApril 29, 2009

Swine flu made its first appearance in company financial reports yesterday, one day before the U.S. government reported the first death in the United States resulting from swine flu, a 23-month old boy from Mexico who died in a Houston, Texas hospital.

The most prominent company to refer to swine flu was Burger King, which today released its third quarter fiscal 2009 results. “We continue to grow our top-line in this challenging economic environment,” said CEO John Chidsey. “However,” he added, “due to ongoing market challenges and unknown potential effects of the Swine Flu situation, we are taking a more conservative outlook to our fourth quarter fiscal year 2009 earnings estimate.” Burger King said in the same release that it expected fourth quarter earnings per share to be in the range of $0.34 to $0.37, again adding that the forecast “is subject to change based on the impact of the evolving Swine Flu situation on the company’s worldwide business.”

The fast-food chain also added “public health issues such as swine flu outbreak” to its safe harbor statement.

More directly affected was Southeast Airport Group, or Grupo Aeroportuario Del Sureste, a Mexico City company that operates Cancun Airport and eight other airports in southeast Mexico. The company’s American Depositary Shares are listed on the NYSE. In a press release filed as a 6-K, the company said it had observed a decline in passenger traffic levels since April 26. “ASUR cannot determine the impact that this will have on the Company’s operations and its financial results, nor can ASUR predict the amount of time it will take to return back to normal conditions,” the company said.

Similarly, Pacific Airport Group, or Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico, a NYSE-listed company based in Guadalajara, Mexico, filed a 6-K containing a press release detailing the surveillance systems that the health departments of most Mexican states were setting up at the company’s airports to monitor travelers for signs of swine flu. The company noted that operations at its airports remained normal, with no cancellations of national or international flights. However, it added, “we do not know the full impact that this situation will have on passenger traffic; this will depend on the amount of time that the risk prevails.”

Similarly, Airmedia Group, a Beijing, China-based company that provides advertising in Chinese airports, added swine flu to its existing safe harbor language regarding the threat from SARS and avian flu, noting that “A health epidemic could result in a significant drop in demand for air travel and ultimately our advertising services.”

Meanwhile, B.O.S. Bettern Online Solutions Ltd., an Israeli company, issued a press release announcing the availability of BOSwine 1.0, a radio frequency ID product “for monitoring the lifecycle of pigs.”

“BOSwine 1.0 RFID monitoring system can immediately identify symptoms that are associated with many common illnesses, including swine flu, allowing the BOSwine user to apply early, and more successful, treatment,” said managing director Yuval Viner in a statement.

A report in today’s New York Times also suggested that an employee of Ernst & Young’s Times Square building in New York may have contracted the flu and that the building was decontaminated over the weekend. In a statement provided to CFO.com, E&Y said that based on new information, “we can no longer confirm that an Ernst & Young employee who works in the Five Times Square building has a verified case of swine flu.” Nonetheless, the company said, “out of an abundance of caution, we have taken appropriate steps to protect the health of our employees.”