Why Apple's big rival Samsung likely wouldn't take a major hit from a Chinese economic slowdown

  • Investors lose some confidence in Samsung Electronics Thursday as a downward revision in Apple's first-quarter guidance roiled stock prices of its suppliers.
  • But an economic slowdown in China would have limited impact on Samsung compared to the iPhone maker, according to Daniel Yoo, head of global strategy and research at Kiwoom Securities.
  • He says the world's largest chipmaker and smartphone maker's market share for mobile phones in China is less than 1 percent.
Jung Yeon-je | AFP | Getty Images

Investor confidence in Samsung Electronics fell Thursday as a downward revision in Apple's first-quarter guidance roiled stock prices of its suppliers.

Apple on Wednesday lowered its revenue guidance and gross margin from previously projected figures, and blamed several factors including a weakening Chinese economy and lower-than-expected iPhone revenue "primarily in Greater China." The region represents about 15 percent of Apple's revenue, according to analysts.

But an economic slowdown in China would have limited impact on Samsung compared to the iPhone maker, according to Daniel Yoo, head of global strategy and research at South Korea-based Kiwoom Securities.

He explained to CNBC by email that Samsung, the world's top smartphone maker by market share, accounts for less than 1 percent of mobile phones in China, so it's less exposed to Asia's largest economy.

And on the chip side of Samsung's business, China's ambition to build up its domestic semiconductor industry — part of the Made in China 2025 plan — may slow down due to Beijing's ongoing trade war with Washington.

"Which means Samsung will continue to be (the) dominant player in this business for the long period of time," he said.

The production of memory chips used in smartphones and data centers is a high-performing business for Samsung. In its latest round of announced earnings, Samsung posted a 21 percent rise in profit.

Samsung, an important components supplier to Apple as well as a competitor in the smartphone market, fell 1.81 percent in the morning session, falling behind the broader Kospi index in South Korea.

Some of the recent data out of Beijing have been soft: Factory activity in small, medium and large enterprises slowed in December, fueling concerns of an economic slowdown amid heightened trade tensions with the U.S.

Still, a general slowdown in Chinese domestic consumption growth could ultimately have an impact on Samsung's share price, Yoo said, adding that Apple's performance also remained a potential risk. He also predicted negative earnings growth for Samsung in 2019, which could put additional pressure on the stock price.

Gil Luria, director of research at D.A. Davidson & Co, told CNBC that an economic slowdown in China may have a "chilling effect on many more companies that do business in the country."

Meanwhile, Samsung saw more than 13 percent year-over-year decline in global smartphone shipments over the third quarter of 2018, according to International Data Corporation. For its part, Apple saw a fractional gain of 0.5 percent.