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Fundamentals in focus as Samsung CEO signals continued investment

By Jo He-rim

Published : March 15, 2023 - 16:58

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Samsung Vice Chairman and co-Chief Executive Officer Hang Jong-hee speaks at the company's 54th annual shareholders meeting in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, Wednesday. (Samsung Electronics) Samsung Vice Chairman and co-Chief Executive Officer Hang Jong-hee speaks at the company's 54th annual shareholders meeting in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, Wednesday. (Samsung Electronics)

SUWON, Gyeonggi Province -- While forecasting a grim business outlook amid a global economic downturn, Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Han Jong-hee vowed to overcome difficulties by focusing on the "fundamentals" and to maintain investment, during this year's annual shareholders meeting Wednesday.

“We expect this year to be more difficult than ever, as management uncertainties surrounding the company would continue. But even in these situations, we were able to overcome crises by sticking to the very common truth to focus on the fundamentals,” Han said.

At the 54th annual meeting, some 600 Samsung shareholders gathered at Suwon Convention Center in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province.

Han, one of Samsung's co-CEOs who heads the device experience division in charge of mobile and appliances, was reappointed as an internal executive during the shareholders meeting.

While speculations were growing on whether Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Jae-yong would regain board membership, Han said the idea has not been reviewed in detail, and that it was difficult to provide a definite answer at the shareholders meeting.

Lee's membership is thought to be symbolic for him to take on more responsibility in management. But Lee has not been a board member since October 2019, after he faced charges in connection with a highly publicized influence-peddling scandal involving former President Park Geun-hye in 2017.

Han also underscored that the company spent a total of 9.8 trillion won ($7.49 billion) in dividends to shareholders for the 2022 fiscal year, and vowed to make efforts to increase shareholder value.

Lee Jung-bae, president of the company's chips division, listed a series of unstable factors, such as the strategic rivalry between the US and China and increasing interest rates, in forecasting demand for semiconductors to plunge this year.

But Samsung, the world's largest memory chipmaker, will continue to invest to improve its research and development to gear up for fresh demand expected alongside next-generation technologies, Lee said.

"Despite global uncertainties, we expect the semiconductor market to continue to grow in mid- to long-term, with new applications of chips," Lee said.

He added that 5G technology, AI, data centers, metaverse and autonomous driving technologies are expected to lead on the demand of memory chips, and that the firm would "prepare for the future to gain an upper hand."

Samsung will also maintain its investment plan for R&D and make efforts to secure more cleanrooms, Lee added.

Samsung will also increase comprehensive automotive solutions combining both memory and logic chips technology to meet increasing demand in the electric vehicle and autonomous driving industry, the president said.

Samsung co-CEO Kyung Kye-hyun, who handles the semiconductors business division, was absent due to a business meeting, the company said.

According to market tracker Gartner, global chip sales are expected to log $563 billion, 6 percent down from last year's prospect of $602 billion.

Han explained the company’s plan to expand the robotics business to introduce various types of robots for commercialization. The vice president also noted the potential of generative artificial intelligence and vowed to prepare to meet future demand.

When asked about the impact of the US' CHIPS Act on its business, Lee said the company is closely reviewing the proposed conditions by the US government and how they will respond.

The US recently announced the details of its chips initiative, offering subsidies for chipmakers that build production facilities in the US in exchange for sensitive business information and excess profits to the US government.

A Samsung Electronics shareholder attends the company's annual shareholders meeting with his children in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, Wednesday. (Jo He-rim/The Korea Herald) A Samsung Electronics shareholder attends the company's annual shareholders meeting with his children in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, Wednesday. (Jo He-rim/The Korea Herald)

Separately, at this year's venue, Samsung set up an eco-friendly store selling merchandise made from recycled materials, and installed photo booths to add fun for attendees.

Many shareholders were also seen attending with their young children.

“I came with my son to show what a shareholders meeting is like; I want to teach him investment. We also attended last year’s meeting too,” Lim Dae-sam said, holding the hand of his 10-year-old son.