Record profits for Samsung, but falls for LG, in the first three months of 2013

First quarter figures have been announced by South Korea's two electronics giants, and while Samsung racked up record net profits despite a small decline in sales, LG saw its profit fall by more than 90% year on year.

And the reasons were the same: healthy smartphone sales in the face of declining profitability in the TV market: Samsung sold 65m handsets in the first three months of the year, while LG shipped 10.3m, the highest number since it entered the smartphone market.

LG's sales in the first quarter were up 6.8% year on year, at KRW14.1tn (£, and down less than 5% from the last quarter of 2012, traditionally a peak selling period.

Samsung, meanwhile, saw a slightly greater quarter-on-quarter drop of about 6%, but its KRW52.87tn (£30.7bn) of revenue was 16.8% up on the same period last year, and exceeded the company's forecasts for the year.

Sansung: record profit

Similarly, while Samsung's KRW8.78tn (£5.15bn) operating profit for the three months was marginally down on the previous quarter's figure, it was 54% up on the same quarter last year, while net profit surged to that record KRW7.15tn (£4.15bn), up 1.5% on the previous quarter, and 41% higher than Q1 2012.

Meanwhile LG's operating profit gains and losses were more than a little skewed by legal costs in the last quarter of last year: its KRW350bn (£203m) operating profit was almost three times the amount in the previous quarter, and its KRW22bn (£12.8m) net profit a massive improvement on the KRW478bn (£277m) figure last quarter.

LG: 90% fall

However, those figures represent a year-on-year operating profit drop of 13%, and a 91.2% fall in net profit.

The reasons behind these figures are familiar ones. Samsung's consumer electronics division sales were down just over 2% year on year, with TV sales down 2.6% overall but up 11% in emerging markets, but earnings were down. Meanwhile the mobile phone division's revenues were up almost 50% year on year.

Over at LG, its home entertainment sales were down 4.6% year on year, and the division's operating profit down 82%, while mobile handset sales revenues surged 30.6% year on year, and operating profit more than quadrupled to KRW133bn (£77.3m), the same as the operating profit for the entire mobile division.

To give some idea of scale, those profits were made on total mobile communications division revenues of KRW3.2tn (£1.86bn) in January-March this year, while Samsung's mobile division had sales of KRW31.77tn (just under £18.5bn), up almost 50% YoY, and operating profit of KRW6.51tn (3.78bn), up 55% on the same quarter last year.

By contrast, Samsung's operating profit on its consumer electronics division fell by more than a half year on year, and 67% quarter on quarter, to just KRW230bn (£133m). That means that its operating profit on mobile operations is almost 20% of sales, while consumer electronics is delivering just 2% of sales as operating profit.

Premium TVs

However, both companies are pledging to boost the profitability of their TV divisions by strengthening the role of more premium-priced products in their ranges, Samsung noting that sales of its ES7/8000 series TVs increased 25% year on year, and LG saying it will 'further establish a premium image and lead the premiumTV market with our OLED TV and ULTRA HD TV'.

Will the Galaxy S4, due on sale this weekend, boost Samsung's profits even more? Read our Samsung Galaxy S4 review

MORE: Samsung PS51F8500 plasma TV review

Written by Andrew Everard

Follow on Twitter

Join us on Facebook

Find us on Google+

Andrew has written about audio and video products for the past 20+ years, and been a consumer journalist for more than 30 years, starting his career on camera magazines. Andrew has contributed to titles including What Hi-Fi?, GramophoneJazzwise and Hi-Fi CriticHi-Fi News & Record Review and Hi-Fi Choice. I’ve also written for a number of non-specialist and overseas magazines.