Samsung warns supply chain upsets may hit chip demand

Profit at three-year high but company is monitoring supply issue

Samsung’s Seocho building in Seoul. Photograph: Jung Yeon-Je/AFP via Getty Images

Samsung’s Seocho building in Seoul. Photograph: Jung Yeon-Je/AFP via Getty Images


Samsung Electronics said on Thursday it expects component shortages to affect chip demand from some customers in the final three months of the year, after reporting its highest quarterly profit in three years.

The warning comes as producers of goods from televisions to cars have faced a host of supply chain issues ranging from a shortage of logic chip parts, manpower shortages, logistics snarls, and delays at parts plants due to power cuts in China.

“A longer-than-expected component supply issue may need to be monitored” for potential impact on devices that use memory chips, Samsung said, although it added there was “strong fundamental demand” for server chips.

“There is much uncertainty due to various macro issues including the effect of ‘back-to-normal’, component supply and raw material price hikes,” said Han Jin-man, executive vice president of memory business.

“But... component supply issues seem to stem more from mismatches in supply chain management rather than from an absolute lack of supply... So the situation may improve from the second half of next year.”

Samsung said demand for server DRAM chips, which temporarily save data, and NAND flash chips that serve the data storage market, is expected to stay robust in the fourth quarter due to expansion of data centre investments, while personal computer manufacturing growth is expected to hold in line with the previous quarter.

Although supply chain issues could limit demand from some mobile chip customers in the fourth quarter, demand for server and personal computer chips is expected to be robust in 2022 despite uncertainties, it said.

Samsung said falling memory chip prices were not a huge cause of concern because the chips are now used in a wider variety of devices than just personal computers, making cyclical price fluctuations weaker and shorter than in the past. Chipmakers were also carrying lean inventory levels, leaving room for a build-up without being forced to sell at a low price.

Falling memory prices have weighed on the company’s shares as investors expect prices to have peaked in the third quarter before falling until mid-2022.

“There seems to be a clear gap in memory price outlook between chipmakers and the market. Companies are expressing a firm will to not sell chips at low prices,” said Park Sung-soon, analyst at Cape Investment & Securities.

“However, even server chip demand is not guaranteed at this point as the component supply issues are also affecting them.”

Analysts expect Samsung’s fourth quarter earnings to be level or below its third quarter result, largely depending on memory chip prices.

Smaller rival SK Hynix on Tuesday struck a more bullish note than US peers and forecast steady demand for memory chips. Earlier, chipmakers Intel and Micron had said shortages of some components were stopping their customers from shipping PCs.

Three-year high

The world’s top maker of memory chips and smartphones posted a 28 per cent jump in operating profit in the July-September quarter to 15.8 trillion won ($13.48 billion) on the back of an 82 per cent on-year profit surge in its chip business, where earnings rose to 10.1 trillion won.

Rising memory chip prices, plus a jump in profitability at Samsung’s chip-contract manufacturing business boosted the chip business’ operating profit.

Operating profit at Samsung’s mobile division slid about 24 per cent on-year to 3.36 trillion won on the third quarter, as sales of Samsung’s new foldable smartphones were tempered by marketing costs.

Net profit rose 31 per cent to 12.3 trillion won. Revenue rose 10 per cent to a record 74 trillion won.

Samsung’s shares rose 0.3 per cent in afternoon trade on Thursday, compared with the wider market’s 0.2 per cent rise. It shares have fallen about 13 per cent year-to-date.