Samsung's 4th-Quarter Profit Hits 8-Year Low

Operating profit plummets 69% on concerns about the global economy's health.

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Samsung's fourth-quarter profit was the lowest the company has seen in eight years, as the global economic downturn continues to weigh on consumer demand for PCs and phones.

The Korean electronics giant reported Monday that its operating profit for the three-month period ended Dec. 31 came in at 4.31 trillion won ($3.5 billion), a drop of 69% compared with the same period last year, when the company notched a record fourth-quarter profit. This represents Samsung's lowest quarterly profit since the third quarter of 2014, when it logged 4 trillion won.

The company's revenue in the quarter also declined, falling nearly 8% to 70.46 trillion won ($57.2 billion).

Samsung, best known for its phones and TVs, also dominates the market for memory chips, a key cash driver for the company. During the pandemic, Samsung's chip business got a boost from data centers that rely on the technology to store everything we're doing online.

But NAND and DRAM prices fell sharply in the fourth quarter as high inflation, rising interest rates and geopolitical tensions reduced demand for the products these chips eventually go into, such as PCs. Underscoring that sales drought, market researcher IDC reported earlier this month that PC shipments were down more than 28% in the fourth quarter and more than 15% for the year overall.

Consequently, Samsung's semiconductor business reported sales of 20 trillion won in the fourth quarter, a 24% decrease year over year.

"Overall memory demand weakened as customers continued to adjust their inventories amid deepening uncertainties in the external environment," Samsung said in its quarterly earnings statement. "Looking to the first quarter, customers' inventory adjustment stance has remained unchanged as economic uncertainties continue."

Economic uncertainty also hurt the company's mobile division, as global smartphone shipments experienced their largest-ever decline at the end of 2022, dropping almost 20% in the fourth quarter, according to IDC. Samsung's mobile division felt the pain of that trend, with sales declining 7% year over year.

"For 2023, Samsung expects the impacts of the economic downturn to continue for the time being," the company said. "However, analysis of smartphone purchase patterns suggests that demand will continue to polarize between premium and low-priced phones."