GSMA cuts 20% of staff – report

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The MWC Barcelona event accounts for as much as 80% of the GSMA's annual revenue. (Getty Images)

The GSMA has cut 20% of its workforce following the cancellation of its flagship MWC Barcelona and MWC Shanghai conference earlier this year, in an unfortunate example of how impacts related to the coronavirus pandemic continue to weigh on the global mobile industry’s trade body.  

In an emailed statement, a GSMA spokesperson said: “Due to the cancellation of MWC Barcelona 2020 and MWC Shanghai 2020, it has been necessary to examine our priorities and to make some difficult choices regarding how we work and where we invest. Regretfully these changes impact our staff in offices around the world. Reducing staff is always difficult but seems particularly unjust when market conditions outside our control drive the decisions. We are proud of our team, grateful for their work and acknowledge that this situation is not a reflection on their work, contribution or potential.”

The job losses, reported by Bloomberg, impact about 20% of GSMA’s roughly 1,000 employees globally, which Stephanie Lynch-Habib GSMA Chief Marketing Officer confirmed to Bloomberg in an interview. She reiterated that it’s a very difficult situation and expects a recovery timeline of at least three years.

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According to Bloomberg, MWC Barcelona accounts for as much as 80% of the organization’s annual revenue.

In addition to reducing staff, the report said GSMA has also taken cost-cutting measures like reducing bonus payouts, and slimming down budgets and non-staff spending for the current year by around 40%.

MWC Barcelona is the mobile industry’s biggest trade show, usually attracting 100,000 attendees on average. Major exhibitors like Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei, and others typically have massive booth and expansive show floor exhibits. The event was hit in the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, when it saw an exodus of exhibitors following Ericsson’s early decision to not attend. The GSMA decided on February 12 to cancel the event.

Not holding MWC Barcelona also likely impacted smaller companies that use the opportunity to meet new prospects and share their technology and visions on a larger stage. In late February, Parallel Wireless called the cancellation a big blow as MWC Barcelona, “represents collaboration, visibility, connecting with customers for small and big companies.” Many had to quickly rework plans, often hosting the now familiar virtual meetings or their own events.

In March the GSMA disclosed a financial package for MWC Barcelona 2020 attendees and exhibitors.

The GSMA was also forced to cancel its MWC event in Shanghai as the global health crisis continued. In April, the GSMA extended its contract with Barcelona as the host city for MWC through 2024. The mobile industry organization appears confident in holding the event in-person next year.

“We are working towards a great MWC2021, and hope to be able to share some of our plans in the coming weeks,” according to the GSMA spokesperson.

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