Samsung posted a near 40 per cent fall in first quarter net profit, missing analyst estimates despite a surge in memory chip demand that cushioned a slump in smartphone sales.
Facing increasing competition from arch rival Apple and smaller Chinese manufacturers, the world’s top handset maker reported a net profit of 4.6 trillion won ($4.3 billion) for the January-March period, down 38.9 per cent from a year earlier.
It was the fourth straight quarterly decline in net profit and missed the 4.9 trillion-won average of 23 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg News. Operating profit also fell 29.6 per cent on-year to 6.0 trillion won, largely in line with the firm’s earlier forecast. But in a sign that the South Korean electronics giant might be turning a corner after four successive quarters of significant declines, the operating profit was up 13.1 per cent from the fourth quarter of last year.
In its earnings statement, Samsung said it expected overall earnings to increase in the second quarter as premium smartphone sales enter “into full swing.” Samsung is pinning its hopes on the sixth edition of its flagship high-end smartphone launched in April.
The Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge with a wraparound screen received rave reviews but Samsung cautioned competition would intensify in rapidly growing emerging markets. “In 2015, continued growth is expected due to the growth of emerging smartphone markets such as China and India as well as the global expansion of the LTE business,” Samsung said in a statement.
“However, increased competition in the middle-to low-end market…may present challenges,” it said. Operating profit of the semiconductor unit soared more than 50 per cent to 2.93 trillion won, also up 8.5 per cent from the fourth quarter of last year.
Despite the signs of recovery, the firm’s latest earnings still stood in stark contrast to Apple which this week reported a 33 per cent surge in net profit to $13.6 billion in the first quarter thanks to blockbuster sales of the iPhone 6, especially in the Chinese market.
The weak euro and emerging market currencies could drag down overall demand in 2015, Samsung said, adding that currency moves had an 800 billion won impact on the first quarter. Samsung suffered a dramatic slide in profits last year, hit by slowing demand in an increasingly saturated and competitive smartphone market that it had largely dominated since 2011.
The company struggled to fend off a double challenge from Apple in the high-end market and rising Chinese firms such as Lenovo and Xiaomi in the fast-growing mid and low-end markets.
Several market trackers had Apple and Samsung tied in global smartphone sales in the fourth quarter of 2014, while at least one suggested Apple had regained the throne it lost to Samsung.