Samsung has evolved into one of the two key players in global consumer electronics hardware, challenging even arch-rival Apple as the leading pace-setter. In many ways, it has been to the early 21st Century what Sony was in the late 20th, but has far surpassed the Japanese company's achievements. More than any other Korean business, Samsung fully embraced Western corporate philosophy in the late 1990s and threw itself aggressively into North American and European markets, causing more established rivals - not least Sony - to stumble dramatically. However the environment remains challenging. South Korea continues to experience economic and political problems, a situation exacerbated in Samsung's case by the fact that many Koreans actively resent the group's commercial dominance at home even while they are proud of its international profile. The group also faces stiff competition in key areas from yet another rising tide of Asian rivals, this time from China. The group has interests in many sectors but its undoubted flagship is Samsung Electronics. It is notionally an independent company, although other Samsung companies and the founding family between them control a combined stake of at least 15%. Samsung Electronics operates across three divisions of household appliances (ranging from TVs to refrigerators and washing machines), IT & mobile communications (primarily mobile phones, but also notebook PCs), and what it calls device solutions, comprising semiconductors, memory chips, LCD screens & other components. In its most important segment of smartphones, it has been the global leader since late 2011. Market share for 2020 was around 21%. (See latest figures here). In 2017, it overtook Intel to become the global #1 in semiconductors. Intel regained its lead in 2019, but lost it once more in 2021. Samsung has been the global leader in TVs since 2006. Revenues from Samsung Electronics reached a new high in 2021 of around $244bn (KWon 279.6tn), with net profit of $34.8bn, reflecting strong growth in all divisions, especially semiconductors and other components. The latter division overtook mobile in 2020 to become the group's biggest business with revenues for 2021 topping $109bn (including $82bn from semiconductors alone) to mobile's $95bn. The Samsung umbrella also covers a huge range of other businesses in sectors as diverse as financial services, fashion, tourism, pharmaceuticals, theme parks and automobiles (through a minority stake in Renault Samsung Motors). Samsung Electronics is just the best known of more than 80 separate but affiliated companies in Korea alone, 17 of them publicly listed in their own right. Combined revenues are well over $350bn. The empire is overseen, notionally at least, by the founder's grandson Lee Jae-Yong. He was reinstated as vice chairman in 2018 following a jail term for bribery and corruption. However after three years of freedom, another court overturned his pardon in early 2021 and ordered him to return to prison. His father Lee Kun-hee had retained the title of group chairman until his death in Oct 2020 despite being bed-ridden for several years following a heart attack. Samsung Electronics is now run by two co-CEOs, Kyung Kye-hyun (components) and Han Jong-hee (mobiles & consumer electronics).
Capsule checked 6th August 2021
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Adbrands Update 28th Jan 2022: Figures from researcher IDC for global smartphone sales in 4Q and 2021 as a whole demonstrated the fallout from the collapse of former smartphone challenger Huawei. Sanctions introduced by the US and other governments caused that former top three manufacturer to plunge out of the leaderboard for 2021. The main beneficiaries were Chinese rivals Xiaomi (whose volumes surged 29% year-on-year), Oppo (up 20%) and Vivo (up 15%). Apple enjoyed its traditional seasonal jump, eclipsing Samsung over the holiday season (as has become an annual tradition); a surge which also helped the company to report record revenues for that company. It also reduced Samsung's lead for the year as a whole. The Korean giant closed the year with an estimated 20% annual market share, virtually identical to 2020. Apple rose slightly to 17% (from 16% in 2020), while Xiaomi seized Huawei's third place with 14% (up from 11.5% in 2020).
Marketer Moves 7th Dec 2021: New co-CEOs at Samsung. See Marketer Moves (members only).
Adbrands Daily Update 2nd Aug 2021: Despite Intel's breakneck efforts to regain technological leadership in the semiconductor industry, it suffered a new blow in 2Q when it was overtaken in chip sales by arch-rival Samsung. Intel was already widely regarded within the industry as having fallen behind rivals Samsung and TSMC in terms of technological innovation. Both Asian companies have overtaken Intel in their ability to cram higher numbers of even tinier transistors on a single chip. Crucially, both competitors also manufacture chips under "foundry" contracts for other designers such as Nvidia and AMD. The huge surge in global demand for semiconductors allowed Samsung to gain precedence during the latest financial quarter with sales worth around $19.7bn, ahead of Intel's $19.6bn. The latter figure also includes around $1.1bn from a unit Intel is in the process of divesting. It is the first time since 2018 that Intel has fallen behind the South Korean giant.
Adbrands Daily Update 18th Jan 2021: In yet another extraordinary about-turn, Samsung's de facto chairman Lee Jae-Yong was sent back to jail on charges of bribery. He was, for the second time, found guilty of bribing South Korea's former president Park Geun-Hye in 2015 to smooth the way for a merger of two companies that would give Samsung's founding family greater control over the group. Lee was originally sentenced to five years in jail in 2017, but was freed on appeal after a year. However, Korea's Supreme Court subsequently ordered a retrial. Despite Lee's expressions of regret for his actions, and a request for leniency, he was ordered to serve the remainder of his original sentence. Former president Park is currently serving a 20-year sentence for corruption relating to this and other cases. Lee had been expected to be formally named chairman of Samsung this year in the wake of his ailing father's death last October. It is unclear when or even if this official transfer of power will now take place.
Adbrands Daily Update 5th Oct 2020: "Inspired By A True Photo: Onions". Mother London makes its debut on the Samsung account with a charming and quirky tale of mutual attraction over onions. It ties in to Samsung's new promotion encouraging users to submit their own photos that might inspire a commercial. Other than the onion connection, we're not quite sure how Mother's creative team made their way from the original picture to the finished concept. But this sort of shy love story is always appealing, and is given added piquancy here by the quirkiness of its cast and setting. Where else but in Britain would a film about two such very ordinary people end up being so... well, extraordinary.
Adbrands Daily Update 3rd Feb 2020: Latest global smartphone research from IDC reflects the stellar results recently posted by Apple for the final three months of 2019. The huge popularity of the iPhone 11 allowed Apple to leapfrog Samsung for the first time in three years to become the #1 smartphone brand by global shipments. Precisely one out of every five smartphones purchased in the holiday quarter was made by Apple, ahead of Samsung with 18.8% share. Huawei slipped back to third place on 15.2%. However iPhone 11's end-of-year surge wasn't enough to change the full year ranking. It remained in the #3 spot behind Samsung and Huawei. Xiaomi and Oppo held their customary positions as #4 and #5.
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