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ThE MaStEr

Samsung Faces Weak Outlook on Flat Screens and TVs


Samsung Electronics Co, the world's largest memory chip maker, disappointed markets with weak earnings guidance, halting its second straight quarter of record results, due to plunging prices of flat screens and TVs.

The South Korean electronics powerhouse is braced for a tough outlook as a sputtering world economy has hit demand for TVs and computers and exacerbated steep price falls of components such as chips and flat screens.

"LCD (liquid crystal display) and TV performance appears to be worse than expected and the downward pressure on earnings will only grow as chip prices are also falling and TV makers increase price cuts," said Chung Young-woo, analyst at Korea Investment & Securities.

"Usual uptick in seasonal year-end demand will be smaller this time and an earnings recovery is unlikely until early next year."

Samsung, the first major global technology firm to issue preliminary third-quarter estimates, has so far performed strongly over chip rival Micron and held on to its No. 1 slot in TVs against Sony Corp and Panasonic.

Samsung is also challenging Apple Inc with its Galaxy S smartphone model, powered by Google's Android software.

By 0040 GMT, shares in Samsung, Asia's most valuable technology firm worth $116 billion, dropped 2.3 percent, lagging a 0.2 percent drop in the KOSPI.

Samsung, also the world's No.2 maker of mobile phones and the No.1 maker of LCDs, has benefited from strong demand from China and as improved corporate spending boosted sales of memory chips and flat screens, but smartphone sales stayed weak.

"Earnings will slide further but the stock is looking attractive as the slowdown is already priced in and Samsung will benefit most from any demand recovery, being the No.1 in many areas," said Jung Sang-jin, a fund manager at Dongbu Asset Management.

Jung has been increasing Samsung shares to the company's portfolio since last week.

Samsung, valued 3 times more than No.1 handset maker Nokia and its key TV rival Sony, dropped 1 percent this year to Wednesday's close, underperforming KOSPI's 13 percent rise.

On Thursday, Samsung estimated its third-quarter operating profit at a median 4.8 trillion won ($4.3 billion) of 4.6 and 5.0 trillion won range, lower than a consensus forecast of 5.2 trillion won polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

That would be down 4 percent from the previous record of 5 trillion won in the preceding quarter but up 14 percent from the 4.2 trillion won reported a year ago. Samsung reports quarterly results in late October.

Sales were estimated at 40 trillion won.

Profit from its chips division is set to account for nearly 70 percent of Samsung's total profit in the third quarter.

CHIP PRICES FALL

Analysts forecast Samsung's profit will shrink to around 4 trillion won in the current quarter and stay around that level till the second quarter of next year due to weak prices of chips and flat screens.

Prices of dynamic random access memory (DRAM), mainly used in computers, have fallen more than 20 percent from its peak in May and may drop another 20 percent this quarter, as PC sales growth has declined.

Research firm Gartner cut its second-half PC sales growth forecast to just over 15 percent last month.

A wobbly global economy is also hitting sales of TVs, computers and laptops, which together account for the majority of large-sized LCD panels, and investors are now worried demand could slow further as China tightens its economic policy.

Most analysts expect Samsung's LCD profit margins to fall further to around break-even level in the fourth quarter from an estimated 4 percent in the third quarter.

Its TV division faces increased competition and weak demand might force it to slash prices and hit sales of premium products such as LED-backlit LCD models and 3D sets.

The mobile phone business, one of Samsung's weakest points due to delays in smartphone offerings, is now the sole bright spot and firmly on a recovery path, thanks to strong sales of Galaxy S. The high-end model has sold more than 5 million units since its June launch.

Last month, Samsung raised 2010 smartphone sales target to 25 million units from the previous target of around 18 million.


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Samsung Faces Weak Outlook on Flat Screens and TVs





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