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Samsung Q4 profit jumps on server chip demand, foundry margins

Samsung Electronics said on Friday (Jan 7) that its fourth-quarter operating profit likely jumped 52 per cent year on year to its highest for the quarter in four years, helped by solid demand for server memory chips and higher margins in chip contract manufacturing.

The world’s largest memory chip and smartphone maker estimated October-December profit at 13.8 trillion won (S$15.6 billion), which would be the tech giant’s highest fourth-quarter operating profit since Q4 2017.

The result missed a Refinitiv SmartEstimate of 15.2 trillion won, which analysts attributed to items such as employees’ bonuses, marketing costs for its mobile business, and ramp-up costs for new display panels being reflected in the quarter.

Revenue likely rose 23 per cent from the same period a year earlier to 76 trillion won, the company said in a short preliminary earnings release.

Samsung is due to release detailed earnings on Jan 27.

Although prices of memory chips dipped during the quarter, increased demand from server clients lifted Samsung’s quarter-on-quarter shipments of both Dram chips, widely used in data centres, and Nand flash memory chips, used for data storage in tech devices, analysts said.

Samsung shares rose 1.6 per cent in morning trade.

Its shares have climbed about 11 per cent since early November in anticipation of memory chip prices dipping less than expected during the first half of this year then rebounding, boosted by new data centres and demand for videos, games, conferencing and other traffic-heavy services.

Samsung’s logic chip business, which includes chip contract manufacturing that competes with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), is also expected to post a jump in operating profit to above one trillion won in the December quarter due to more deliveries and higher prices, Hanwha Investment and Securities analyst Lee Soon-hak said.

Estimated smartphone shipments by Samsung’s mobile business were about 67 million, near 69.3 million in the previous quarter, Counterpoint Research said, helped by easing component shortages, although marketing costs weighed.

The business was recently merged into a single Device Experience (DX) division along with TV and home appliances. The Straits Times

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