Auckland-based Serko saw its shares dive 12.85 per cent to $4.00 this morning after it issued a coronavirus (COVID-19)-related warning - wiping $54.7m from its market cap. (Update: Serko recovered some ground in late trading and closed down 6.3 per cent to $4.30.)

The maker of travel-booking and expensing software is still up 40.2 per cent over the past year, however, after a bull run driven, in part, by an investment from US giant - which took a 5 percent stake for $17.5m as part of a broader $40m raise.

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"Serko has been monitoring Australasian travel booking trends closely in light of coronavirus (also known as Covid-19). Transactions year-to-date have continued to increase over the prior period," Serko said in an update to the NZX.


"However, over the past week we have seen a drop-off in bookings which Serko is attributing to travel decline due to coronavirus.

"While we continue to monitor these trends, we expect softer transaction numbers to continue as corporate customers change their travel policies to limit unnecessary travel."

Last May, Serko said revenue growth would be between 20% and 40% for its 2020 financial year, ending March 31.

"We raised enough capital to ride any global financial crisis or impact like this," says Serko CEO Darrin Grafton. A $40m October raise included $17.5m from US giant which took a 5% stake.

The company now expects the forecast revenue growth for the full year to 31 March 2020 to be at or about the low end of that guidance. (There was no profit guidance to be revised.)

Beyond a reluctance to travel for general business, suspended flights and travel restrictions, the COVID-19 outbreak has also seen a raft of international conferences cancelled, including the tech world's second-largest pow-wow, the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, plus local get-togethers that had been expected to attract tends of thousands including Cisco Live in Melbourne and PB Tech Expo 2020 in Auckland.

Serko said looking beyond the immediate COVID-19 scare, the reach of its business was continuing to expand.

In November, chief executive Darrin Grafton told the Herald that full-time equivalent staff numbers, which had already climbed from 107 to 208 over 2019, would hit between 300 and 350 by the end of this year, with around 200 in NZ.

Today, Grafton told the Herald that plan was still on track, thanks to the $40m raise late last year.


"Coronavirus doesn't impact hiring. We raised enough capital to ride any global financial crisis or impact like this," he said.

"Actual transactions are still at all-time high and we hit record days - but just not where they should be based on the amount of new business signed in Australasia and the US."

Grafton even pitched Serko as a positive for companies grappling with which staff could travel, or not, during the COVID-19 outbreak.

"We're one of the only systems that provides the workflows for approvals and the right governance," he said.

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Beyond the COVID-19 scare, Serko's reach continues to expand.

The company has had an increase of 584 total new corporate customers in its financial year-to-date, up approximately 257 customers from the first half of the financial year.

The company is due to deliver its full-year 2020 result in May.