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.”


Commerzbank slapped with fine for deals with defunct Cypriot bank

Updated 05 July 2020

Commerzbank slapped with fine for deals with defunct Cypriot bank

  • Laiki, once Cyprus’s second-largest bank, was taken into administration and wound down in March 2013

FRANKFURT: Cyprus’s securities regulator has imposed a €650,000 ($730,800) fine on Germany’s Commerzbank for its role in transactions carried out by a local bank that collapsed during the country’s 2013 financial crisis.

The country’s CySEC commission said Commerzbank had been sanctioned over investment operations conducted by the now-defunct Laiki — also known as Cyprus Popular Bank — in 2011, following Laiki’s merger with Greece’s Marfin-Egnatia Bank.

Commerzbank declined to comment on the case, which followed an eight-year probe by Cypriot authorities.

The investigation, which was launched following calls by left-wing AKEL lawmaker Irene Charalambides, looked into whether the Cypriot deals may have broken laws prohibiting a company from buying its own stock.

CySEC said Laiki invested in two structured products issued by Commerzbank in 2008. Marfin-Egnatia, which was at that time a Laiki subsidiary, was an index sponsor responsible for the composition of the portfolio.

As a result of the 2011 merger between Laiki and Marfin-Egnatia, Laiki became the index sponsor, creating a conflict of interest, CySEC said.

It said Laiki and Commerzbank acted in “concert” to manipulate the market in relation to Laiki shares on several occasions in April and May 2011.

CySEC said it had not fined Laiki because it is in administration and did not want to put an additional burden on former depositors, bond holders and shareholders.

Laiki, once Cyprus’s second-largest bank, was taken into administration and wound down under terms of a €10 billion international financial assistance package to Cyprus in March 2013.

Some €4.3 billion in uninsured deposits exceeding the EU threshold of 100,000 were wiped out, and thousands of people lost their life savings.

Charalambides said she felt vindicated by the result of the investigation.

“The resolution authority should consider the possibility of civil lawsuits against Commerzbank to ensure that the funds channelled to these structured bonds, with the objective of manipulating shares, be returned, and given to depositors whose funds were subjected to a haircut,” she said in a statement.