Samsung profits rise despite troubles

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Samsung has reported a strong financial performance in the first quarter of 2008, offering some solace after the shock resignation of its chairman this week..

First-quarter net profits at the Korean electronics giant reached $2.2bn, an increase of 37 per cent. Executives admitted that the results were much better than expected.

Samsung is a leading manufacturer of LCD panels, mobile phone handsets, DRam, Flash memory and other semiconductors.

Cost reductions from supply chain management improvements and marketing rationalisation, together with exchange rate shifts, helped to boost profit margins, according to executive vice president Woosik Chu.

Market demand for LCD TVs and notebook PC panels was steady in the first quarter, and the price decline for large panels was slower than in previous years.

"In handsets, despite weak demand in the developed markets including Europe and the US, we posted 46.3 million units shipment, a similar figure to fourth-quarter sales last year," said Chu.

"This was led by steady sales of our strategic models in the emerging markets, as well as some competitors' sluggishness in the market."

Results were mixed in the highly competitive memory market. "Weak memory pricing persisted in Q1 as the oversupply situation continued," Chu said.

Lee Kun Hee, chairman of Samsung for the past 20 years, quit this week after being indicted on charges including tax evasion. A successor has not yet been named. Lee's anointed heir, his son, also resigned in the scandal.

Jung Ku-hyun, of the Samsung Economic Research Institute, said that the company had no choice but to "unwind its complicated, hierarchic and centralised decision-making apparatus".

"We have interests in over 59 companies. Our corporate structure has to be streamlined considerably with greater transparency," he said.
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