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More firms scrap guidance amid virus chaos

Steven Deare and Alex Druce
Mirvac has scrapped earnings guidance amid many listed companies doing similar due to Covid-19

Aristocrat Leisure, Kathmandu, Ramsay Health, Mirvac and others on Wednesday scrapped earnings guidance while troubled theme park operator Ardent Leisure will close its US venues as the COVID-19 pandemic clouds the global economic outlook.

A swag of firms have also announced a scaling back of operations, with Collins Foods confirming it will be closing its eat-in services at its Aussie KFC restaurants and focus on take-away, drive-thru, and delivery.

Dreamworld owner Ardent announced it will temporarily close its Main Event centres in the US after that country - like Australia - introduced stricter guidelines to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Scentre Group, however, has stressed that its Westfield shopping centres are an "essential activity" as described by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and will remain open.

"We are also working with our retail partners as they manage their business through this volatile period," Scentre said in an update.

The virus is spreading across the world and has prompted bans on travel, mass gatherings and panic buying in many countries including Australia.

The World Health Organisation says 6,606 people have died.

Financial markets have plunged to record lows, and prompted most businesses to reconsider the year's trading.

Real estate advertising group REA said while the housing market had been growing, it had withdrawn the financial outlook it offered in February.

REA will allow customers to list sales again for free, and has postponed price increases for residential listings.

Private hospital operator Ramsay Health Care was another to scrap its outlook.

Group managing director Craig McNally said while it was too early to determine the virus impact in Australia, he expected an increase in private patients.

Some hospitals were fast-tracking elective surgery to minimise any future disruption, he said.

Property developer Mirvac also ditched its earnings expectations.

The buyer and builder of office, industrial and residential properties said the uncertainty from the pandemic made it appropriate to withdraw full year guidance.

Chief executive Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz said Mirvac wanted to provide transparency along with protecting its employees and stakeholders.

Mirvac says it has only $200 million of debt maturing in the next 12 months and is able to repay it.

Gambling machine manufacturer Aristocrat Leisure has had some of its casino customers temporarily close.

It scrapped guidance as customers become more cautious about spending.

Adventure retailer Kathmandu says the coronavirus will deliver a second-half earnings blow but maintains the outbreak shouldn't limit product availability.

The NZ-based owner of Rip Curl and Oboz on Wednesday said it was unable to provide full-year guidance as it prepares its first half results for March 30 and foot traffic plunges amid accelerating quarantine and social isolation protocols.

Travellers and consumers are eschewing outdoor pursuits, contributing to the deterioration of an early February trading update where chief executive Xavier Simonet said the impact on consumer demand was "currently not significant".

Meanwhile, Bubs Australia says it has ramped up production to meet a spike in demand from parents anxious to secure supplies of infant milk formula.

Bubs founder and chief executive Kristy Carr said the company was also building inventory to ensure steady future supply to respond to further demand surges.

"We have greatly increased our capacity and are working to expand our inventory cover and meet the supply needs of our retail partners across both goat milk and organic grass-fed cow's milk-based formula," Ms Carr said.

Bubs was one of the better performing stocks amid a wider market downturn on Wednesday and had gained 9.38 per cent to 52.5 cents by 1327 AEDT.