SAMSUNG Electronics Co yesterday said it expects profit growth in 2017 despite challenges arising from political uncertainty, after record chip earnings glossed over the Note 7 smartphone fiasco in the fourth quarter.
The South Korean tech giant and Apple Inc rival is embroiled in an influence-peddling scandal surrounding President Park Geun-hye, with five Samsung Group executives already grilled by prosecutors and investigations ongoing.
“The uncertain business environment such as the changing political landscape in Korea and overseas poses a challenge to the execution of mid- to long-term business strategies, such as M&A and investment decisions and developing new growth engines,” Samsung Electronics said in a statement.
Even so, it flagged higher earnings this year after a slow first quarter, when steeper marketing costs will eat into its bottom line as it tries to rebuild its reputation from the failure of its latest flagship phone.
The world’s top maker of smartphones, memory chips and flat-screen televisions is counting on the booming chip market to continue driving growth and give the mobile business breathing space to rebuild its premium line-up.
The company forecast “stable demand” in 2017 for memory chips, which hit an all-time earnings high in the October-December period.
Fourth-quarter operating profit jumped 50 percent to 9.22 trillion won (US$7.93 billion), its highest in over three years and matching prior guidance of 9.2 trillion won. Earnings from the chips business soared 77 percent year on year to a 4.95 trillion won. Revenue were flat at 53.3 trillion won.
Analysts said the outlook for 2017 was clouded by uncertainty over the performance of new premium smartphones, succession planning within the controlling Lee family and the fallout from the graft scandal.
Samsung Group scion Jay Y. Lee, 48, is restructuring the sprawling conglomerate in moves analysts see as preparations to succeed his father, Lee Kun-hee, who was hospitalized in 2014.
But the heir-apparent has been classified as a suspect by prosecutors investigating whether the conglomerate paid bribes to a Park associate to win support for a merger of affiliates in 2015.
“If the head of the group is indicted, there will likely be some leadership vacuum,” Alpha Asset Management fund manager C.J. Heo said.