Samsung poised to benefit from virus woes afflicting rivals

Samsung is better positioned to weather the virus fallout than its formidable rivals such as Huawei and Apple. (Reuters)
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Updated 18 February 2020

Samsung poised to benefit from virus woes afflicting rivals

  • “Samsung does not say it publicly. But it is relieved.”

SEOUL: Samsung Electronics stands to be a major beneficiary of the China production problems announced by rival Apple Inc on Monday, reaping the rewards of a decade-long bet on low-cost smartphone manufacturing in Vietnam.

Half of Samsung’s smartphones are now made in Vietnam, where the coronavirus that has crippled the China operations of Apple and many other firms has so far had only a limited impact on its production.

Apple said on Monday it would not meet its revenue guidance for the March quarter due to the coronavirus impact on both production and sales in China, where most iPhones are made. Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp last week also flagged a hit to its March quarter sales.

Huawei, another major Samsung rival, has not announced any production problems, but Samsung insiders, analysts and suppliers expect it will also be hit hard due to its heavy reliance on Chinese manufacturing and parts. Many Chinese and foreign firms have begun to re-open China factories that were idled for weeks, but shortages of workers and other problems have in many cases kept output to a minimum.

Samsung has also largely ceded the China market to its rivals in recent years, meaning it won’t suffer from the store closures and drop in demand that is hitting Apple and others.

BACKGROUND

5G — Before the virus, the smartphone market had been expected to end two consecutive years of falls due to smartphones running on faster 5G wireless networks. But the outbreak will dampen hopes of a rebound, with global shipments likely to record another decline.

“Samsung is better positioned to weather the virus fallout than its formidable rivals such as Huawei and Apple,” a person with knowledge of Samsung’s supply chain said.

“The virus exposed China risks. We feel fortunate that we were able to escape the risks,” he said.

Another person familiar with Samsung’s thinking told Reuters: “Samsung does not say it publicly. But it is relieved.”

Still, two sources familiar with Samsung’s Vietnam operations cautioned that should the virus outbreak be prolonged, Samsung would feel the impact, as the company sources many components from China.

Problems with cross-border shipments also cropped up in the early phases of the virus outbreak as Vietnam imposed stricter border controls, according to Hong Sun, vice chairman of Korea Chamber of Business in Vietnam. The issues have since been resolved, Sun said, but risks remain if Chinese parts suppliers cannot get back to work.

Samsung also relies on Chinese contract manufacturers for some low-end models.

In a statement, the company said: “We are making our best effort to minimize any impact on our operations.”


South Korea seeks arrest of Samsung heir in succession probe

Updated 04 June 2020

South Korea seeks arrest of Samsung heir in succession probe

  • Jay Y. Lee faces a return to jail just a little over two years after being released from detention

SEOUL: South Korean prosecutors have requested an arrest warrant against Samsung Group heir Jay Y. Lee, they said on Thursday, in the investigation of a controversial 2015 merger and alleged accounting fraud in a suspected bid to aid his succession plans.
The move spells fresh trouble for Lee, who, if arrested, faces a return to jail just a little over two years after being released from detention in February 2018.
Lee already faces trial on a charge of bribery aimed at winning support to succeed ailing group patriarch Lee Kun-hee, and which involved former President Park Geun-hye, and spent a year in detention until the bribery case was suspended in 2018.
Prosecutors said they sought Lee’s arrest on suspicions of stock price manipulation and audit rule violations, among other offenses.
In a statement, Lee’s lawyers expressed “deep regret” at the prosecution’s decision to seek his arrest, adding that he had fully cooperated with the investigation while Samsung was going through management crises.
Prosecutors have been investigating suspected accounting fraud at drug company Samsung Biologics after the Korean financial watchdog complained the firm’s value had been inflated by $3.7 billion in 2015.
Prosecutors contend the violation helped boost the value of its major owner, Cheil Industries, which counted Lee as its top shareholder, and merged with Samsung C&T, a de facto holding firm, Yonhap news agency said.
Samsung requested an outside review of the investigation to weigh the validity of the indictment and the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office is following the necessary procedures, it said in a statement.
Last month, prosecutors questioned Lee, 51, over the latest investigation. He also apologized for a series of controversies around his succession planning.
Lee’s year in detention followed separate charges that he bribed Park to win government support for the 2015 merger which helped tighten his control of South Korea’s top conglomerate.