Samsung announces stock split, posts record fourth-quarter profit

Key Points
  • Samsung Electronics recorded an operating profit of about $14.15 billion for the December quarter — in line with guidance.
  • The firm's semiconductor division drove the fourth-quarter earnings on the back of strong demand for its memory chips.
  • Samsung's mobile business saw a 3.2 percent on-year decline in operating profits.
  • The tech giant also announced a 50:1 stock split that saw its shares jump more than 8 percent in morning trade.
Jung Yeon-je | AFP | Getty Images

Samsung Electronics on Wednesday said it recorded an operating profit of about 15.2 trillion Korean won ($14.15 billion) for the quarter ending in December, which was in line with guidance. That was a 64.3 percent jump from a year earlier.

The firm's fourth-quarter revenue came in at about 66 trillion won, a 23.7 percent on-year increase. For the full year, Samsung recorded an operating profit of nearly 54 trillion won on revenue of about 240 trillion won.

Samsung shares jumped more than 8 percent in morning trade after the firm announced a 50:1 stock split. But that rally eventually faded and the stock closed up only 0.2 percent at 2,495,000 won, while the broader Kospi index finished near flat.

In a statement, Samsung said its board believed a stock split would make investing in the company "more accessible and provide dividends to a wider range of investors from 2018."

As part of a previously agreed shareholder return policy, Samsung also announced a year-end dividend of 21,500 won per common share.

The South Korean tech giant said its fourth-quarter earnings were driven by strong demand for its memory chips that are used in data centers and smartphones. In recent years, Samsung's semiconductor business became a major earnings driver. That unit recorded an operating profit of nearly 11 trillion won for the December quarter.

Earlier this year, research firm Gartner said preliminary results showed Samsung leapfrogged Intel to become the world's top semiconductor supplier last year. Samsung's market share in 2017 was 14.6 percent and Intel had 13.8 percent of the market, according to Gartner.

Gartner said a supply shortage resulted in a 64 percent jump in revenue growth in the memory market and benefited companies like Samsung, SK Hynix and others. Memory accounted for more than two-thirds of all semiconductor revenue growth in 2017, the research firm said.

Still, the advantage currently enjoyed by memory chip makers may not last, according to Gartner.

"Samsung's lead is literally built on sand, in the form of memory silicon," Andrew Norwood, research vice president at Gartner, said in a statement earlier this month. He added that memory pricing will weaken in 2018 as China steps up its memory production capacity. "We then expect Samsung to lose a lot of the revenue gains it has made."

For the current quarter that will end on Mar. 31, Samsung said strong demand for its memory chips that are used in data centers would likely offset weak seasonal demand.

"Looking at the mid to long term, Samsung expects the components business to see demand expand from new applications," the company added in a statement.

Samsung said its earnings from the mobile business declined in the December quarter due to higher marketing costs. Fourth-quarter operating profit for the mobile division came in at 2.42 trillion won, lower than the 2.5 trillion seen a year earlier.

The firm said smartphone sales for its low-end models declined. Indeed, recent data showed that Samsung was pushed out of the pole position last quarter from the Indian smartphone market, where it sells many of those low-end models.

"In the first quarter, the company expects the mobile business to improve its earnings, led by an increase in sales of flagship products with the launch of Galaxy S9," Samsung said in a statement.

The Galaxy S9 is expected to be introduced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Overall, Samsung pointed to the earnings guidance released in January and said operating profit was affected by a stronger Korean won against the dollar and other major currencies. The firm added that a one-off incentive paid to employees in the semiconductor business also had an impact on earnings.