Samsung reports worst decline in quarterly sales since 2009 as chip slump persists

Operating profit plunged 96 per cent but beat market expectations

Samsung's headquarters in South Korea. The company is struggling with a prolonged slump in the smartphone market. Reuters
Powered by automated translation

Samsung Electronics has reported its worst decline in quarterly revenue since at least 2009, stoking uncertainty over when a year-long electronics and memory chip demand slump will end.

The stock slid 2 per cent in Seoul, the most on an intraday basis in more than two months, after Samsung reported a larger-than-anticipated 22 per cent fall in sales to 60 trillion won ($46 billion).

Operating profit plunged 96 per cent to 600 billion won in the three months ended June despite surpassing average estimates.

Samsung has borne the brunt of a slowdown gripping the $160 billion global memory industry, reflecting a wider downturn after a coronavirus-era boom in online activity waned.

Inflation and recession fears last year triggered a rapid pullback in consumer and business spending that has since hammered sales of electronics worldwide.

Despite the disappointing top line number, investors remain cautiously optimistic that the memory chip glut is finally easing after more than a year of price declines.

Samsung rivals Micron Technology and SK Hynix have signalled that electronics companies are working through bloated stores of memory chips after the post-pandemic collapse in demand for smartphones and computers.

The industry has moved to shore up prices. Samsung said in April it was cutting production after reporting its slimmest profit in 14 years, a significant step towards ending the supply glut.

Micron said last week it had passed the low point of the current downturn while Hynix executives predicted some relief later this year, aided by a recovery in China and AI demand.

Last quarter was “the profit bottom for Samsung in the current memory down cycle”, CLSA analyst Sanjeev Rana said.

“We expect a sharp profit recovery in the second half as memory price declines are decelerating and demand is expected to recover.”

Samsung has been the biggest contributor to gains on South Korea’s benchmark Kospi index in 2023.

The country’s largest corporation will provide a business outlook when it reports full earnings – including net income and details on divisional performance – on July 27.

“We believe the worst quarterly loss from the semiconductor business was in 1Q [the first quarter of] 23,” Giuni Lee, analyst at Goldman Sachs, said in a report before the earnings release.

Samsung’s losses are expected to gradually shrink before the company turns a small profit in the fourth quarter, he said.

The price declines registered by dynamic random access memory (Dram) chips are expected to slow in the second half of the year as chip makers tighten supply.

Overall Dram prices are projected to fall by up to 5 per cent in the three months to September, after declining by as much as 18 per cent in the second quarter, according to market research company TrendForce.

Semiconductor exports are also picking up, with a 28 per cent drop in June compared with a sharper decline of 41 per cent in April.

The company also unveiled a plan last week to shore up its foundry business in a bid to narrow the lead held by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company.

Samsung will introduce 2-nanometre production for mobile phone parts by 2025 and expand applications. It will also significantly increase output in Pyeongtaek, South Korea and the Texas city of Taylor.

While the glut may be easing, inventory levels throughout the industry remain historically high and the economic outlook is uncertain.

But investors are betting generative artificial intelligence will drive new demand for servers requiring next-generation Dram, or DDR5.

AI-enabling servers need at least four to six times more Dram capacity, compared with standard ones, according to the Goldman Sachs report.

Samsung is also struggling with a prolonged slump in the smartphone market. Its mobile shipments are estimated to have fallen by a quarterly 9 per cent between April and June, according to eBest Investment.

Samsung is banking on a foldable line-up to shore up its profitability, with plans to unveil the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Flip 5 in late July.

Updated: July 07, 2023, 3:57 AM