Dear SEC: More Companies Warn on Financial Impact from Petya Infection

In-brief: the Petya outbreak has prompted a string of profit and earnings warnings from major firms, with more likely in the days and weeks ahead, as companies struggle to regain their footing after the damaging wiper attack. 

A week ago, writing for Digital Guardian, I noted that the outbreak of the Petya wiper malware was prompting something we haven’t seen too often in the decades since malicious software outbreaks became a “thing.” That is: companies acknowledging that a software infection may have a material impact on their operations. The focus of my blog, at the time, was FedEx which for a brief moment on June 28 halted trading of its stock while it assessed an outbreak of the Petya (aka “NotPetya” aka “ExPeter”) malware on the network of TNT Express, a FedEx subsidiary.  The disruption caused by the malware, which encrypted the master boot record of infected machines, “significantly affected” TNT, FedEx.

While trading of FedEx stock soon resumed soon after, the decision to halt trading was significant, suggesting that FedEx was concerned – at least temporarily- that the infection might spread and cause more significant disruptions to its global package delivery operation. The past week suggests those concerns weren’t overblown, with a string of companies announcing that the wiper malware was likely to depress their financial performance, at least in the short-term.

International snack and candy maker Mondelez of Deerfield, Illinois said on Thursday that the cyber attacks of June 27 will erase 3% from the company’s second quarter growth. “Given the timing of this significant global attack, despite our best efforts, we experienced disruption in our ability to ship and invoice during the last four days of our second quarter,” the company said. The company said it is “still assessing the full financial impact of this event, in addition to performing our normal quarter-end financial close process.”  The company disclosed the issue to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Mondelez’s stock declined nearly 2 percent in after-hours trading following the announcement.

Also, the Financial Times reported that Reckitt Benckiser, a maker of consumer products like Nurofen and Durex condoms said that it expected losses of £110m ($142m), a second quarter sales drop of 2% compared to a year earlier and a 1 percent hit to its expected annual revenue growth.  The company said in a statement that it was “making good progress in getting key applications and systems back on track” but that the full cost of the attack wasn’t yet known. The company has stated publicly that Petya affected its ability to manufacture and distribute product to customers in some 60 countries in which it operates.

“We were unable to ship and invoice some orders to customers before the close of the quarter,” the company told Financial Times.  “Some of our factories are currently still not operating normally.”

Other companies that are known to be affected heavily by Petya have not yet ventured a guess at the cost to their operations. Shipping giant AP Moller-Maersk said Friday that it was “too early” to say what the financial impact of Petya is. But anecdotal evidence suggests the company was heavily impacted. The company’s CEO said the company was forced to resort to manual operations in response to the attack, but the malware did not affect the physical flow of goods but the “data streams stopped. We could not allow customers to come in and do bookings and there was limited data available,” Asia-Pacific CEO Robbert van Trooijen of Maersk Line.

In a conference call with reporters, van Trooijen said it was only in the last 48 hours was able to ensure that “just about every port in the world is able to receive and release cargo again.”

However, testimonials from customers posted on networks like LinkedIn suggest that the company still has a way to go, with numerous complaints about shipments stuck in ports or pending, and unable to access information on their status.

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