Samsung profit tops estimates on resilient sales of memory chips

Samsung Electronics Co posted profit that topped estimates on resilient sales of memory chips, easing concerns about a dropoff in demand.

Operating income rose to a record 17.5 trillion won ($15.5 billion) in the three months ended September, according to preliminary results released Friday from the Suwon, South Korea-based company.

That compares with the 17.2 trillion-won average of estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

The results could alleviate pessimism over demand for memory chips, even though there’s remaining doubt whether customers will continue their buying next year. That’s weighing on the world’s biggest chipmaker, which is also struggling to boost its smartphone sales. Samsung shares have declined about 11% this year, compared with a 41% again in 2017, when annual earnings rose to an all-time high.

“Operating profit seems to be at its peak now,” said Greg Roh, an analyst at Hyundai Motor Securities, said by phone. “Early next year might be the right time to buy Samsung before growth picks up again in the bottom half of next year.”

Sales for the third quarter were 65 trillion won, matching the average projection compiled by Bloomberg. Samsung won’t provide net income or break out divisional performance until it releases final results later this month.

Samsung shares rose as much as 1.8% in early trade in Seoul. Kim Sun-woo, an analyst at Meritz Securities Co., estimated in an emailed report that the semiconductor division made 13.6 trillion won while displays, smartphones and consumer appliances together earned 3.9 trillion won.

Memory chips account for the biggest portion of Samsung’s profit and buys the company time to shore up its smartphone sales. While contract prices for 32-gigabyte DRAM server modules fell 0.1% in the three months ended September, that was the first quarterly decline since 2016, according to InSpectrum Tech Inc.

Prices for 128 gigabit MLC NAND flash memory chips fell about 6.9%.

While Samsung leads the world in smartphones, it is being challenged by Chinese handset makers like Huawei, which overtook Apple Inc. to become the second-largest vendor in the June quarter according to IHS Markit. Samsung is pinning its hopes on a yet-to-be-unveiled smartphone with a bendable screen, as it taps into its know-how in organic light-emitting diodes screens, which it also supplies to Apple Inc.

Displays have emerged as another important source of revenue for the South Korean company. Samsung Display, an affiliate of Samsung Electronics that makes screens for iPhones, is stepping up its foray into OLED panels supplied to automakers, including Audi.

Samsung plans to curtail growth in memory chip output next year to keep supplies tight amid an expected slowing in demand, Bloomberg News reported last month.

Chip prices may rise as a result while Samsung reduces orders for equipment and materials. Korea Investment & Securities forecasts an 8% drop in investment in semiconductors next year as Samsung braces for a slowdown in demand.

“Hitting a peak in the third quarter, earnings momentum is expected to slow as profit falls until the early part of next year,” Yoo Jong-woo, an analyst at Korea Investment & Securities, wrote in a report before the earnings announcement.

Read: Samsung profit hit by smartphone slowdown

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Samsung profit tops estimates on resilient sales of memory chips