Samsung Electronics reported a 58% surge in profit, topping projections as demand for its memory chips remained strong enough to outweigh concerns about display supplies to Apple.
Operating income rose to 15.6 trillion won (US$14.7bn) in the three months ended March, according to preliminary results released on Friday from the Suwon, South Korea-based company. That compares to the 14.5 trillion won average of analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Sales for the first quarter climbed to 60 trillion won, compared with the 61.3 trillion won average projection.
The first-quarter result, which includes the sales of its marquee Galaxy S9 smartphone unveiled in February, may ease concerns about its display business after Apple sold fewer-than-projected iPhone X handsets with Samsung-made displays. Still, resilient demand for memory chips used in phones and servers could keep the electronics maker on track to post another year of record profit, after replacing Intel last year as the world’s biggest chip maker by sales.
“Memory chips are the loyal son of Samsung,” said Lee Jae-yun, an analyst at Yuanta Securities. “Still, momentum may slow toward the end of this year with price rises likely to be less steep than last year.”
The shares of Samsung fell about 1% in Seoul, as the KOSPI index declined on concern over US tariffs. The stock is down more than 5% this year, after climbing 41% in 2017.
Samsung is reporting its first results since de facto chief Jay Y Lee was released from prison on a suspended sentence for a bribery conviction in February. The 49-year-old vice chairman has since travelled to Europe to meet with business partners and been spotted in Canada. His father, chairman Lee Kun-hee, remains hospitalised after a 2014 heart attack.
Samsung won’t provide net income or break out divisional performance until it releases final results, most likely on 26 April, when a conference call is scheduled.
The semiconductor business forms the largest portion of Samsung’s profit. Prices for 128GB MLC NAND flash memory chips fell 10.7% in the March quarter from the December period while contract prices for 32GB DRAM server modules climbed 5.6% in the same period, according to inSpectrum Tech.
Prices to remain high
“Prices are expected to remain high,” said Mike Howard, vice president of memory research at French researcher Yole Developpement. “When you consider its entire memory business, there is an excellent chance that it will see higher profits in 2018.”
Last month at a shareholders’ meeting, Samsung reorganised its leadership to separate the roles of business executives and board members, responding to public calls to improve its transparency and accountability. Shareholders also approved a 50:1 stock split that will take effect following a trade suspension from 30 April to 3 May.
“Demand for servers cancelled out the effect of slow sales for iPhone X and premium Chinese smartphones,” Kim Yang-jae, an analyst at KTB Investment & Securities, wrote in a report before earnings. “Demand is exceeding market expectations.” — Reported by Sam Kim, (c) 2018 Bloomberg LP