Samsung is the biggest maker of memory chips, accounting for about one-third of global output. It also makes display screens and other major components of smartphones. This separates it from Apple, which outsources the purchase of smartphone parts and their assembly, and other phone makers that have fallen on hard times, including BlackBerry, Nokia and HTC.
"There is still a perception gap around the Samsung model and how they can keep making money while all the others are crashing down," said Sundeep Bajikar, an analyst at Jefferies, a brokerage firm, who is based in San Francisco.
Many analysts say that, rather than crashing, Samsung will continue to make a lot of money, with semiconductors contributing a growing share of earnings. Now investors want to know what Samsung intends to do with all that cash.
Mark Newman, an analyst in Hong Kong for Sanford C. Bernstein, predicts that Samsung's cash pile will soar to $77 billion next year and $160 billion in 2017. Apple, by comparison, has $147 billion in cash.
Yet Samsung investors have seen little of it. The percentage of net income the company has paid out in dividends or stock buybacks fell to 5 percent last year from 50 percent in 2004, Mr. Newman wrote in a note to investors.
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He said that is one reason the company's stock price has lagged. Despite the recent rebound, Samsung trades at a significant discount to Apple, in price-to-earnings ratios. It has less than half the market value of Apple, despite higher revenue.
"The company needs to either return cash or convince investors of the next profit driver after memory — preferably both," Mr. Newman said.
Others say it would be smarter for Samsung to invest its money in semiconductors, a highly capital-intensive business, and in other potential growth areas.
"I think their dollars or won are best invested in disrupting their competition," Mr. Bajikar said.
"Samsung will continue to look for ways to be more open to shareholders," the company said in its statement about analyst day.