March 13, 2020 / 1:48 PM / 19 days ago

UPDATE 1-Expedia pulls 2020 forecast as virus fears disrupt travel plans

(Adds forecast details, share move)

March 13 (Reuters) - Online travel services company Expedia Group Inc on Friday withdrew its forecast for 2020 adjusted earnings due to the fast-spreading coronavirus and said it now expects a bigger hit to its first-quarter results than previously projected.

The outbreak, which spread globally since first detected in China last year, has infected almost 135,000 people and killed more than 4,900 worldwide, forcing several companies to suspend their financial outlook and borrow money.

"As COVID-19 has rapidly spread from Asia to Europe and North America over the past few weeks, travel trends have continued to worsen," Expedia Chairman Barry Diller and Vice Chairman Peter Kern said in a statement.

"It remains difficult to predict how long this pandemic will persist."

The company said it expected a bigger impact on first-quarter adjusted EBITDA, compared with the $30 million to $40 million hit it had estimated earlier, given the outbreak spread significantly since it reported fourth-quarter results last month.

In February, Expedia said it would not give a specific forecast, citing uncertainty on how much cost savings it would recognize in the year due to the health crisis.

Shares of the company were up about 5% amid broader market gains. (Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Maju Samuel)

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