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Freescale loss in Malaysia tragedy leads to travel policy questions

Freescale loss in Malaysia tragedy leads to travel policy questions
A sign for Freescale Semiconductor is seen in this photo from Austin, Texas on Sunday March 9, 2014. Photo: AP
Should semiconductor company have allowed so many employees to board the same plane?
Published: March 11, 12:35 PM
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Shares of Austin, Texas-based Freescale fell 1.28 per cent to US$23.09 (S$29) yesterday . They were down 2.7 per cent at one point in early trade.

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The Freescale employees on MH370 were mostly engineers and other experts working to make the company’s chip facilities in Tianjin, China, and Kuala Lumpur more efficient. They were based in those two locations and travelled back and forth on a regular basis to work on different projects, according to the company.

While they accounted for less than 1 per cent of Freescale’s 16,800 employees, they were doing specialised work and were part of a broad push by Chief Executive Officer Gregg Lowe to make Freescale more cost-effective.

“Anybody who travels for a company is a relatively important individual,” said RBC analyst Doug Freedman. “But Freescale has a deep bench. It has resources it will pull from other places to fill the void.”

Letting a number of employees travel together is the norm rather than the exception for many companies.

Chipmaker Intel uses private planes to shuttle managers and executives between offices and factories in California, Oregon and Arizona. Those fly several times a day, often with more than 35 employees on each flight, and are also seen as ideal opportunities for executives to network.

Meanwhile, Google, Apple, Facebook and other big technology companies operate private buses to shuttle dozens of employees at a time from their homes in San Francisco to offices in Silicon Valley, a 50-mile trip. Those buses carry about 17,000 passengers a day back and forth, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

Mr Tim Horner, a managing director at Kroll and a specialist in security consulting, said corporations organising major sales events and other employee gatherings should consider a host of travel-related risks beyond flights.

Some United States companies sending employees to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi worried too much about terrorism and not enough about more mundane risks like street crime and medical emergencies, he said.

“You also have to realise that this type of tragedy, as horrific it is, is very infrequent,” Mr Horner said of the Malaysian airliner loss. “This is not something that occurs with any great frequency.” REUTERS

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