Samsung’s transition — from most ridiculed phone maker to the biggest

Kim Ki-nam, vice chairman and CEO of Samsung Electronics Co.’s device solutions, speaks during the company’s annual general meeting in Suwon on March 18, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 23 March 2020

Samsung’s transition — from most ridiculed phone maker to the biggest

  • Samsung is a larger smartphone manufacturer than Apple, and at the same time a key supplier to its great rival
  • It's overall turnover is equivalent to a fifth of S. Korea's GDP, Geoffrey Cain says in his book "Samsung Rising"

SEOUL: Military-style management and an unquestioning reverence for the founding Lee family have fueled Samsung’s transition from the world’s most ridiculed phonemaker to its biggest, says the author of a new book.

Today Samsung — by far South Korea’s most powerful conglomerate with more than 50 affiliates from electronics and insurance to hotels and apartments — is a larger smartphone manufacturer than Apple, and at the same time a key supplier to its great rival.

The group’s overall turnover is equivalent to a fifth of the GDP of the world’s 12th-largest economy, where citizens sometimes refer to their country as the “Republic of Samsung.”

It is a remarkable transformation from only a few years ago when Western consumers mocked it for its unreliable products.

At first fascinated by the firm, author Geoffrey Cain said: “As I got deeper, I felt like I was going down the rabbit hole.”

Its rise was tainted with corruption, he writes in “Samsung Rising,” a rare English-language detailing of the highly secretive and opaque empire, published last week in the US.

HIGHLIGHT

Samsung founder Founder Lee Byung-chul saw Samsung as more than a business, identified with the war-ravaged nation itself, and it played a key part in South Korea’s rise to become Asia’s fourth-biggest economy.

Cain interviewed around 400 people, including current and former Samsung employees, executives and politicians, he said, but many refused to be named or go on the record.

Founder Lee Byung-chul started Samsung — the name means “Three Stars” — as a vegetable and dried fish shop in 1938 and after the Korean War expanded into sugar, finance, chemicals, electronics and more.

Lee saw Samsung as more than a business, identified with the war-ravaged nation itself, and it played a key part in South Korea’s rise to become Asia’s fourth-biggest economy.

He forged close relations with military dictator Park Chung-hee, and married off his sons to daughters of governors and ministers, sealing enduring connections with political power.

Cain zeroes in on the firm’s long-running relationship with Apple, which began when a youthful Steve Jobs met Lee Byung-chul in 1983 as he sought parts to build a tablet computer — 27 years before releasing the iPad.


Egypt signs lucrative gas deals

Updated 10 min 44 sec ago

Egypt signs lucrative gas deals

  • Five agreements were signed during the last fiscal year

CAIRO: The Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS) has signed eight research and exploration agreements with investments of $934 million.

Five agreements were signed during the last fiscal year and three others during the first quarter of this fiscal year.

Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Tarek El-Molla said that the integrated strategy adopted by the ministry to develop Egypt’s natural gas resources has succeeded in recording the highest rates of natural gas production in the history of the country, achieving gas self-sufficiency and resuming exports.

He said that natural gas plays a significant role in achieving economic returns, in addition to attracting new international companies to work in the field of research and exploration in Egypt.

El-Molla said a project to transform Egypt into a regional center for the handling and trade of gas and oil is being planned.

The minister stressed the importance of implementing the national project for providing natural gas to all Egyptian governorates and citizens.

Magdy Galal, EGAS head, reviewed the development of natural gas production rates during the past five years and the efforts to confront the natural decrease of wells.

He said that during the recent fiscal year, the company signed a total of five agreements. On top of the $934 million in investments, there were also signing grants worth $51 million.

He added that the company has 37 ongoing agreements, a result of a Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources strategy, which attracted new investments and the entry of Exxon Mobil and Chevron in the field of research and exploration in Egypt, and an increase in investments from companies such as Shell and Total.

He said the company is finalizing six other agreements with investments of $731 million and $14 million in signing grants.