The Korea Herald


[CES 2024] Samsung CEO hints at plans for ‘megadeals’

Tech giant sitting on cash with no large M&As since W9tr Harman deal in 2017

By Jie Ye-eun

Published : Jan. 10, 2024 - 15:35

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Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman and co-CEO Han Jong-hee speaks at a press briefing on the sidelines of CES 2024 in Las Vegas, Tuesday. (Samsung Electronics) Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman and co-CEO Han Jong-hee speaks at a press briefing on the sidelines of CES 2024 in Las Vegas, Tuesday. (Samsung Electronics)

LAS VEGAS – Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman and co-CEO Han Jong-hee said the South Korean tech giant may set out a plan for megasized mergers and acquisitions this year as a way to solidify its leadership in the global market.

“To strengthen our existing businesses and discover future growth engines, we’ve been steadily on M&A deals. We are hopeful that a new (M&A) plan will come up within this year,” Han said at a press conference Tuesday on the sidelines of CES 2024, which kicked off the same day in Las Vegas.

According to Han, Samsung made investments in some 260 venture firms over the past three years across five business sectors: artificial intelligence, digital health, fintech, robots and electronics. To discover new growth engines, it also signed small and medium-sized M&A deals and invested in venture companies.

“We have made a lot of effort, continuously collecting and reviewing companies as M&A targets despite a series of unfavorable deal-making conditions, including the COVID-19 pandemic, geopolitical tensions, and global economic downturn,” he said.

This is not the first time the Samsung CEO in charge of the tech giant’s smartphone and home appliance business division has hinted at plans for “megadeals” in recent years.

In a product launch event in Seoul in March last year, he noted that the company had a strong appetite to acquire Rainbow Robotics, a local humanoid robotics company, and related talks were underway “little by little.” But there has been no update on such a deal so far. Samsung is the second-largest shareholder of the robotics company with a 14.83 percent stake.

Samsung has been seeking to conduct large buyouts for years but it virtually stopped its megasized corporate acquisitions after acquiring Harman, a US automotive electronics maker, in 2017 for 9 trillion won ($6.88 billion).

The press event comes a day after Samsung warned of worse-than-expected earnings in the fourth quarter of 2023, during which its operating profits suffered an estimated 85 percent fall to 6.54 trillion won. It would be the first fall below the mark of 10 trillion won since 2008.

“There is no guarantee whether the market sentiment gets better or not this year. We will take a step-by-step approach to have better performance this year than last year,” Han said.

At the world’s largest tech show being held in Las Vegas, Samsung unveiled its vision for AI leadership, pledging to make the burgeoning technology easily and safely usable in everyday life for everyone. Its new AI companion robot, Ballie, also made a surprise debut at the event.

Han showed confidence in offering a new on-device experience to users, employing AI to realize hyperconnectivity among devices.

Samsung plans to unveil its flagship smartphone Galaxy S24 next week in San Jose, California. The phone is the company’s first product to feature generative AI functions such as real-time translation in phone calls.