Samsung’s profit plunged 95% amid weak memory chip demand

Samsung at the Mobile World Congress 2023 on March 2, 2023, in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Joan Cros/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Joan Cros | Nurphoto | Getty Images

South Korean electronics giant Samsung’s operating profit plunged in the first quarter as prices for its memory chips continued to fall and demand remained weak.

Here are Samsung’s earnings at a glance in the first quarter: 

Revenue: 63.75 trillion Korean won (about $47.6 billion). That is on par with Samsung’s own guidance of approximately 63 trillion Korean won but below the 63.9 trillion won expected by analysts, according to Refinitiv consensus estimates.

Operating profit: 640 billion Korean won (roughly $478.55 million), down from 14.12 trillion won a year earlier. The company issued guidance earlier this month saying Q1 profit would be 600 billion Korean won.

This is the company’s lowest operating profit since the first quarter of 2009.

After forecasting a massive drop in profit earlier this month, Samsung said it would be making a “meaningful” cut in memory chip production, following the lead of smaller rivals such as SK Hynix and Micron.

“Samsung Electronics announced the disappointing number for the first quarter, but at the same time, they announced a meaningful production cut amid the severe memory chip downturn. After that, the market reacted positively on the news,” SK Kim of Daiwa Securities Capital Markets told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Thursday.

“And yesterday, SK Hynix announced their disappointing number but they also guided it for recovery. If we got a rebound, it’s mostly driven by the production cut and some restocking demand. So we see, despite the disappointing earnings number, some positive investor sentiment on the stock,” said Kim.

Samsung is the world’s largest manufacturer of memory chips, which go into everything from personal computers to smartphones to servers in data centers.

Data from the International Data Corporation showed that PC shipments witnessed a steep 29% year-on-year decline in the first quarter, leading to the drop in prices of memory chips over the past few months as a result of high inventories and lack of demand.

During the pandemic, smartphone and PC makers stockpiled chips as demand for consumer devices increased, but they are now grappling with excess inventories as consumers cut back on purchases of these goods due to rising inflation.

Samsung said it expects limited demand recovery as large-scale data centers invest more conservatively and customers continue to adjust inventories. The company expects demand to recover gradually in the second half of the year.

Samsung also expects launches of new smartphones, PC promotions and expansion of new CPU adoption to boost memory chip demand.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.