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LG hit by smartphone slump, but TVs and refrigerators still sell

The company is one of several smartphone makers struggling to find their niche and turn a profit.


Poor smartphones sales are dragging LG down.

LG Electronics

If you're not Apple, you're probably struggling to sell smartphones.

There's a growing sense that consumers just aren't getting pumped for smartphones like they used to. Smartphone shipments, while rising worldwide, are failing to meet growth expectations, according to research firm IDC.

That leaves companies like LG Electronics in a bind. The South Korean tech conglomerate on Thursday reported a 37 percent decline in third-quarter profit year over year thanks to the poor performance of its smartphone business.

LG's net income of 125 billion won ($109.3 million) is down from 203 billion won ($177.5 million) a year ago. LG is not alone in its struggles. LG, Sony and HTC are among the players who try to make it at the high end of the market, where Apple and Samsung (which has faced its own problems) dominate. At the same time, companies like Xiaomi, Huawei and Lenovo been filling the midrange niche.

Sony reported on Thursday a 15.2 percent decrease in smartphone sales from a year ago. Even Samsung, which has long dominated the market, is facing its first decline in smartphone shipments for the year, although it reported on Thursday a return to operating profit in the third quarter. Only Apple seems to be maintaining momentum, reporting solid -- even if not exactly impressive -- iPhone sales in its own financial results earlier this week.

LG, however, isn't just about smartphones. The company beat market expectations, with profits buoyed by strong home appliance and TV sales. The company was pegged to announce an operating profit of 266 billion won in a forecast derived from a poll of 29 analysts, but instead reported operating profit of 294 billion won, according to Reuters.

Its mobile business saw revenue fall 21 percent from a year ago. It shipped 14.9 million smartphones in the period, down 11 percent from a year ago.

Sales have been stronger in the US than they have been in the past but declined in its home market "due to continuous weaker demand." LG has said will try to improve mobile profitability over the last three months of 2015 with the launch of its V10 smartphone, as well as the release of the Nexus 5X, one of two new Android phones being sold directly by Google.

Consumers, however, are snapping up LG televisions. TV sales have improved after a period of sluggishness earlier this year, with sales up 9 percent year over year. Home appliance sales are also healthy and the company is seeing growth in its vehicle components business, due in part to a deal with General Motors.