Samsung poised to benefit from virus woes afflicting rivals

Samsung is better positioned to weather the virus fallout than its formidable rivals such as Huawei and Apple. (Reuters)
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Updated 18 February 2020

Samsung poised to benefit from virus woes afflicting rivals

  • “Samsung does not say it publicly. But it is relieved.”

SEOUL: Samsung Electronics stands to be a major beneficiary of the China production problems announced by rival Apple Inc on Monday, reaping the rewards of a decade-long bet on low-cost smartphone manufacturing in Vietnam.

Half of Samsung’s smartphones are now made in Vietnam, where the coronavirus that has crippled the China operations of Apple and many other firms has so far had only a limited impact on its production.

Apple said on Monday it would not meet its revenue guidance for the March quarter due to the coronavirus impact on both production and sales in China, where most iPhones are made. Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp last week also flagged a hit to its March quarter sales.

Huawei, another major Samsung rival, has not announced any production problems, but Samsung insiders, analysts and suppliers expect it will also be hit hard due to its heavy reliance on Chinese manufacturing and parts. Many Chinese and foreign firms have begun to re-open China factories that were idled for weeks, but shortages of workers and other problems have in many cases kept output to a minimum.

Samsung has also largely ceded the China market to its rivals in recent years, meaning it won’t suffer from the store closures and drop in demand that is hitting Apple and others.

BACKGROUND

5G — Before the virus, the smartphone market had been expected to end two consecutive years of falls due to smartphones running on faster 5G wireless networks. But the outbreak will dampen hopes of a rebound, with global shipments likely to record another decline.

“Samsung is better positioned to weather the virus fallout than its formidable rivals such as Huawei and Apple,” a person with knowledge of Samsung’s supply chain said.

“The virus exposed China risks. We feel fortunate that we were able to escape the risks,” he said.

Another person familiar with Samsung’s thinking told Reuters: “Samsung does not say it publicly. But it is relieved.”

Still, two sources familiar with Samsung’s Vietnam operations cautioned that should the virus outbreak be prolonged, Samsung would feel the impact, as the company sources many components from China.

Problems with cross-border shipments also cropped up in the early phases of the virus outbreak as Vietnam imposed stricter border controls, according to Hong Sun, vice chairman of Korea Chamber of Business in Vietnam. The issues have since been resolved, Sun said, but risks remain if Chinese parts suppliers cannot get back to work.

Samsung also relies on Chinese contract manufacturers for some low-end models.

In a statement, the company said: “We are making our best effort to minimize any impact on our operations.”


EU pledges to stay green in virus recovery

Updated 29 May 2020

EU pledges to stay green in virus recovery

  • To help economies from the 27-nation bloc bounce back as quick as possible

BRUSSELS: The European Commission pledged on Thursday to stay away from fossil-fueled projects in its coronavirus recovery strategy, and to stick to its target of making Europe the first climate neutral continent by the middle of the century, but environmental groups said they were unimpressed.

To weather the deep recession triggered by the pandemic, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has proposed a €1.85 trillion ($2 trillion) package consisting of a revised long-term budget and a recovery fund, with 25 percent of the funding set aside for climate action.

To help economies from the 27-nation bloc bounce back as quick as possible, the EU’s executive arm wants to increase a €7.5-billion ($8.25 billion) fund presented earlier this year that was part of an investment plan aiming at making the continent more environmentally friendly.

Under the commission’s new plan, which requires the approval of member states, the mechanism will be expanded to €40 billion ($44 billion) and is expected to generate another €150 billion in public and private investment. The money is designed to help coal-dependent countries weather the costs of moving away from fossil fuels.

Environmental group WWF acknowledged the commission’s efforts but expressed fears the money could go to “harmful activities such as fossil fuels or building new airports and motorways.”

“It can’t be used to move from coal to coal,” Frans Timmermans, the commission executive vice president in charge the European Green Deal, responded on Thursday. “It is unthinkable that support will be given to go from coal to coal. That is how we are going to approach the issue. That’s the only way you can ensure you actually do not harm.”

Timmermans conceded, however, that projects involving fossil fuels could sometimes be necessary, especially the use of natural gas to help move away from coal.

The commission also wants to dedicate an extra €15 billion ($16.5 billion) to an agricultural fund supporting rural areas in their transition toward a greener model.

Von der Leyen, who took office last year, has made the fight against climate change the priority of her term. Timmermans insisted that her goal to make Europe the world’s first carbon-neutral continent by 2050 remained unchanged, confirming that upgraded targets for the 2030 horizon would be presented by September.

Reacting to the executive arm’s recovery plans, Greenpeace lashed out at a project it described as “contradictory at best and damaging at worst,” accusing the commission of sticking to a growth-driven mentality detrimental to the environment.

“The plan includes several eye-catching green `options,’ including home renovation schemes, taxes on single-use plastic waste and the revenues of digital giants like Google and Facebook. But it does not solve the problem of existing support for gas, oil, coal, and industrial farming — some of the main drivers of a mounting climate and environmental emergency,” Greenpeace said.

“The plan also fails to set strict social or green conditions on access to funding for polluters like airlines or carmakers.”

Timmermans said the EU would keep investing in the development of emission-free public transportation, and promoting clean private transport through the EU budget.