Samsung profit slips on coronavirus, more falls forecast

Samsung expects weaker results in the next three months, adding that “uncertainties driven by COVID-19 will persist” into the second half. (AP)
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Updated 29 April 2020

Samsung profit slips on coronavirus, more falls forecast

  • Net profits in the January-to-March period were $4 billion, down 3.1 percent from a year earlier

SEOUL: The world’s biggest smartphone maker, Samsung Electronics, said Wednesday that net profits in the first quarter were only slightly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic but warned of further falls to come as demand is “significantly” hit by the disease.
It reported on Wednesday that net profits fell slightly in the first quarter as the coronavirus pandemic dampened consumer demand, but warned of further falls to come.
Net profits in the January-to-March period were $4 billion, down 3.1 percent from a year earlier, the company said in a statement.
The January-March performance was “partially due to effects of COVID-19,” Samsung said in a statement.
And it said it expects weaker results in the next three months, adding that “uncertainties driven by COVID-19 will persist” into the second half.
The firm is the flagship subsidiary of the giant Samsung Group, by far the largest of the family-controlled conglomerates known as “chaebols” that dominate business in the world’s 12th-largest economy.
The figures come as the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc across the world economy — earlier this month Samsung had operations suspended at 11 overseas assembly lines — with expectations rife of a looming global recession.
In the second quarter, it warned: “Overall earnings are likely to decline from the previous quarter because COVID-19 will significantly impact demand for several of its core products.”
Memory demand “is expected to remain robust for servers and PCs as more people work from home,” it said.
But “sales and profits of set products business, including smartphones and TVs, are expected to decline significantly as COVID-19 affects demand and leads to store and plant closures globally.”
Woody Oh, a researcher at Strategy Analytics, said the first-quarter results showed only “a slight impact” from the virus outbreak, which emerged in China and spread to the US, Europe and India — Samsung’s key markets.
“But the real impact will show in the second quarter,” he said, adding almost all companies will report their worst results in April-June as the effects of the pandemic become clear.
Samsung had pinned its hopes for 2020 on a rollout of its new 5G and premium smartphones including its latest folding Galaxy Z flip phone.
“While a contraction of the global smartphone market is expected as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, demand for 5G smartphones is forecast to grow,” DJ Koh, president of Samsung’s mobile division told the firm’s shareholder meeting last month.
Global smartphone sales dropped 14 percent year-on-year in February, according to the latest data from market researcher Counterpoint Research, although Samsung’s sales remained stable as it has limited exposure to the heavily hit Chinese market.
A report by market researcher TrendForce this month showed Samsung’s chip business may take a hit in the second half from shipment disruptions caused by virus lockdowns.
“Some of Samsung’s back-end server DRAM packaging operations are based in Luzon, the Philippines. Therefore, the continued quarantine of Luzon may affect the shipment schedule of Samsung’s server DRAM modules,” it said.
Overall, the Taiwan-based market researcher said it expects the rebound of memory chip prices to be “flattened” as the coronavirus pandemic dampens demand from the latter half of the year.
Adding to Samsung Electronics’ challenges, its vice chairman and de facto leader Lee Jae-yong is currently being re-tried over a sprawling corruption scandal that could see him return to prison.
He is not being held in custody during the proceedings, but a guilty verdict could deprive the firm of its top decision-maker.


Tanker off UAE sought by US over Iran sanctions ‘hijacked’

Updated 16 July 2020

Tanker off UAE sought by US over Iran sanctions ‘hijacked’

  • The circumstances of the hijack are still unclear and the boat has been tracked to Iranian waters

DUBAI: An oil tanker sought by the US over allegedly circumventing sanctions on Iran was hijacked on July 5 off the coast of the UAE, a seafarers organization said Wednesday.

Satellite photos showed the vessel in Iranian waters on Tuesday and two of its sailors remained in the Iranian capital.

It wasn’t immediately clear what happened aboard the Dominica-flagged MT Gulf Sky, though its reported hijacking comes after months of tensions between Iran and the US

David Hammond, the CEO of the United Kingdom-based group Human Rights at Sea, said he took a witness statement from the captain of the MT Gulf Sky, confirming the ship had been hijacked.

Hammond said that 26 of the Indian sailors on board had made it back to India, while two remained in Tehran, without elaborating.

“We are delighted to hear that the crew are safe and well, which has been our fundamental concern from the outset,” Hammond told The Associated Press.

Hammond said that he had no other details about the vessel.

TankerTrackers.com, a website tracking the oil trade at sea, said it saw the vessel in satellite photos on Tuesday in Iranian waters off Hormuz Island. 

Hormuz Island, near the port city of Bandar Abbas, is some 190 kilometers (120 miles) north of Khorfakkan, a city on the eastern coast of the United Arab Emirates where the vessel had been for months.

The Emirati government, the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the US Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet did not respond to requests for comment. Iranian state media did not immediately report on the vessel and Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In May, the US Justice Department filed criminal charges against two Iranians, accusing them of trying to launder some $12 million to purchase the tanker, at that time named the MT Nautica, through a series of front companies. 

The vessel then took on Iranian oil from Kharg Island to sell abroad, the US government said.

Court documents allege the scheme involved the Quds Force of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which is its elite expeditionary unit, as well as Iran’s national oil and tanker companies. The two men charged, one of whom also has an Iraqi passport, remain at large.

“Because a US bank froze the funds related to the sale of the vessel, the seller never received payment,” the Justice Department said. “As a result, the seller instituted a civil action in the UAE to recover the vessel.”

That civil action was believed to be still pending, raising questions of how the tanker sailed away from the Emirates after being seized by authorities there.

Data from the MT Gulf Sky’s Automatic Identification System tracker shows it had been turned off around 4:30 a.m. on July 5, according to ship-tracking website MarineTraffic.com. Ships are supposed to keep their AIS trackers on, but Iranian vessels routinely turn theirs off to mask their movements.

Meanwhile, the 28 Indian sailors on board the vessel found themselves stuck on board without pay for months, according to the International Labor Organization. It filed a report saying the vessel and its sailors had been abandoned by its owners since March off Khorfakkan. The ILO did not respond to a request for comment.

As tensions between Iran and the US heated up last year, tankers plying the waters of the Mideast became targets, particularly near the crucial Strait of Hormuz, the Arabian Gulf’s narrow mouth through which 20 percent of all oil passes. Suspected limpet mine attacks the US blamed on Iran targeted several tankers. Iran denied being involved, though it did seize several tankers.