Samsung names Roh Tae-moon new smartphone business chief

Seoul: Infusing young blood into its smartphone business division amid growing Chinese competition in markets like India, Samsung Electronics on Monday named 52-year-old Roh Tae-moon its new mobile business chief — taking over from DJ Koh, current president and CEO of the IT and Mobile Communications (IM) business division.

Tae-moon previously served as president and head of research and development (R&D) at Samsung’s mobile business.

Roh is known for leading the development of Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S and Note smartphone series. He is also the key man behind the release of Samsung’s foldable phone, reports Yonhap news agency.

Koh will retain his post as IM business division chief but will focus on a broader role as Roh has been appointed to lead the mobile business, according to the South Korean major.

With Koh, Samsung also decided to keep two other business division chiefs. Kim Ki-nam, vice chairman and CEO of Samsung’s device solutions, and Kim Hyun-suk, president and CEO of Samsung’s consumer electronics, remained at their posts.

Usually, Samsung has announced personnel reshuffles in December, but the personnel appointments were delayed as trials involving the group’s heir Lee Jae-yong and key executives have dragged out longer than initially expected.

Industry insiders said that Roh’s promotion shows that Samsung is eager to fend off challenges from rivals in the smartphone market amid the rise of 5G and phones in new form factors, such as foldables.

Samsung was the No. 1 smartphone maker in the world, with a 21.3 per cent market share in the third quarter of last year, beating Huawei of China with 18.2 per cent and Apple of the United States with 12.4 per cent, according to data from market researcher Strategy Analytics.

However, the competition on the global smartphone scene is getting fierce as major smartphone vendors race to introduce their latest gadgets. Samsung said it sold 6.7 million 5G smartphones last year, but Huawei announced later that its 5G phone sales reached 6.9 million in 2019.

Roh is expected to make his debut as Samsung’s mobile chief next month, when the company unveils its new version of its Galaxy S smartphone and a new foldable handset at its Unpacked 2020 event in San Francisco.

Market watchers said Samsung decided to make minimal leadership changes in the reshuffle, since there are still uncertainties surrounding Lee and other key executives’ trials.

The company is expected to unveil its second-generation foldable alongside new Galaxy S20 flagship series on February 11th in San Francisco.

The latest reshuffle also shows Samsung’s intention to stably pursue its business goals with its current executives, industry insiders said, after the company delivered estimate-beating fourth-quarter earnings with a positive outlook for this year’s earnings.

Earlier this month, Samsung estimated its fourth-quarter operating income at 7.1 trillion won ($6.1 billion), down 34.26 percent from a year earlier, but the reading was well above the median market estimate of 6.5 trillion won, largely on the back of a slight recovery in chip prices and better-than-expected market response to its smartphones.

The world’s No. 1 memory chip maker expected fourth-quarter sales of 59 trillion won in the three-month period, down 0.5 percent on-year. The fourth-quarter sales estimate stood at 60.5 trillion won on average.

For the whole of 2019, Samsung predicted its operating profit to be 27.71 trillion won, a 52.9 percent on-year drop, and the lowest figure since 2015 when it was 26.4 trillion won.

Full-year sales are expected to reach 229.52 trillion won, a 5.8 percent fall from 2018, the tech giant said. It is the lowest level since 2016, when the comparable figure was 201.8 trillion won.

However, Samsung is predicted to register an annual operating profit of 37.2 trillion won and sales of 253.6 trillion won in 2020, according to market researcher FnGuide, on the back of a recovery in the chip industry.

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