M&A deals in offing, more support for Ukraine to be considered: Samsung’s top exec

SEOUL-- Samsung Electronics Co. is reviewing acquisition opportunities in various sectors, its top executive said Wednesday, as the tech giant seeks to expand its business and find a new growth engine.

"While it is hard to tell you when, due to uncertainties at home and abroad, we are looking at any target if it could help the company's sustainable growth and improve shareholders' value," Vice Chairman Han Jong-hee said during an annual shareholders meeting in Suwon, south of Seoul.

"We are not placing a limit on a type or a size (of an M&A deal) and studying a variety of sectors, including artificial intelligence and 5G vehicle electronic components, for a possible new growth engine" he said.

But he declined to elaborate further, citing the confidential nature of the subject.

Samsung has been eying a new M&A deal for years.

At the CES 2022, Han also said the company was extensively reviewing M&A opportunities in various industries.

"We are moving faster than you might think. We are open to every possibility, and I think we can deliver good news sooner or later," he said at that time.

The last major M&A deal of Samsung, the world's largest memory chip and smartphone vendor, came in 2016, when it acquired U.S.-based Harman International Industries, specializing in connected car solutions, for US$8 billion.

Asked if Samsung was mulling a withdrawal from Russia, Han said the company was "looking carefully" at the development of economic sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

"We will devise a number of contingency plans to minimize any impact on our business," he said, adding that the company will review additional humanitarian support for Ukrainians.

Samsung has temporarily suspended product shipments to Russia due to major disruptions in global logistics over the geopolitical unrest. But its TV factory in Kaluga, southwest of Moscow, is in normal operation, the company said.

The tech giant donated $6 million to support humanitarian efforts for Ukrainian refugees, including $1 million in consumer electronics products.

A record 1,600 individual shareholders turned up at the annual event in person Wednesday, jumping from last year's 900, even though the company made online voting and live streaming available amid record-setting COVID-19 cases.

The country's new daily virus cases surpassed 400,000 on Wednesday for the first time since the pandemic began, driven by the highly infectious omicron variant.

The number of individual investors at Samsung topped 5 million at the end of last year, more than double the 2.15 million tallied the previous year.

Some investors voiced their displeasure over the demand by Samsung's labor union for a hefty pay rise and incentives at a time when the company's share prices have been sluggish for months.

Unionized workers at Samsung demanded the company offer an annual salary increase of 10 million won (US$8,354) per employee and fully disclose its incentive system, among other things.

"I understand that labor unions are necessary but have also seen for a long time that they make excessive demands," one shareholder said. "I hope CEO Kyung Kye-hyun, who is about to meet the union members (for negotiation), works to enhance shareholders' value."

Others made detailed suggestions and comments on the company's chip business, such as how to improve the yield rates of below 5 nm semiconductor process nodes.

"We have gradually improved and stabilized the process, although it took time to ramp up capacity due to its complexity," Kyung said.

"We will optimize the manufacturing and improve the production to achieve both profitability and capacity," he said.

Separately, the company said it will invest 250 billion won ($221 million) to build its first refrigerator compressor factory in India.

Samsung's India corporation and the state of Tamil Nadu exchanged a memorandum of understanding Wednesday to build the plant in the town of Sriperumbudur, about 40 kilometers southwest of Chennai, the state's capital, the company said.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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