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Airlines, shippers count the cost of coronavirus

China is the biggest source of international visitors to Australia

And Qantas, Australia's flagship airline, is taking bold steps as it grapples with falling demand due to the coronavirus epidemic.

It said on Thursday (February 20) it will ground the equivalent of 18 planes, freeze recruitment and ask its 30,000 staff to use up annual leave.

Shares in the airline jumped 7% after it also reported flat half-year earnings, raised its interim dividend and announced a $150 million share buyback.

The carrier estimated the coronavirus would result in a $100 to $150 million hit to underlying earnings for the financial year.

Qantas's CEO said the situation could be managed for at least six months without the need for job cuts.

Others are concerned too.

Air France-KLM has warned of a potential $216 million hit to earnings by April as it contends with the "brutal" impact of the virus.

Shares in the Franco-Dutch group fell sharply after its full-year results and 2020 outlook.

And the issue isn't limited to the skies.

Shipping giant Maersk says the epidemic will weigh on earnings this year.

It adds to the woes of a container shipping industry already subdued by trade wars and an economic slowdown.

Maersk forecasted a weak start to the year because factories in China were closed for longer than usual after the Chinese New Year holiday.

Fourth-quarter earnings totalled $1.46 billion, lagging the $1.51 billion forecast

The Copenhagen-based company says it remains optimistic of a rebound in the second quarter