Samsung Electronics had good news for the world equity markets, telling investors that it would post a 37% increasing earnings over the first quarter of 2008. The news wasn't so hot at consumer electronics competitor Toshiba Corp., which announced a 95% drop in profits.
So why the disparity? Let's tackle Toshiba first. Analysts knew this one was coming, as Toshiba made it plain that its exit from the HD-DVD market would trigger a short-term earnings hit. That's exactly what happened - Toshiba beat feet out of the HD DVD market (which has given way to Blu-Ray DVD technologies in the video marketplace) and it cost them plenty, at least for the short-term. Investments in next-generation technology systems that don't pan out are anathema to earnings statements. Toshiba is the latest in a long line of consumer technology companies (Hello, Gateway) that found that crucible out the hard way.
Samsung didn't make that bet. The Japanese electronics giant, which has made a profitable pivot into the cell phone market, garnered $2.2 billion during a quarter. Sales rose 19 percent to $17.19 billion. Once again, the BRIC story carries the day, as consumers outside of the U.S. and Western Europe buoyed the company's profit line. "Strong growth in emerging markets was balanced by the more difficult economic situation in both North America and Europe," said David Steel, vice president of Samsung's telecommunications business, in a prepared statement.
The cell phone sector was solid for Samsung. According to company figures, cell phone sales rose 33 percent to 46.3 million in the quarter versus the previous year and matched Samsung's record total in the fourth quarter. Samsung said its sales of liquid crystal displays rose 53 percent from a year ago while semiconductor revenues declined 2 percent amid traditionally slow seasonal demand and weak pricing.
It's funny, albeit a little rare, to see how business decisions made by cut throat competitors years ago - Toshiba to HD DVD and Samsung to cell phones - manifests itself in polar-opposite earning statements on the same day. It's a little like The Red Sox' Josh Becket striking out the Yankee's Alex Rodriguez to clinch the AL title.
But whether it's baseball or Blu-ray, the idea is the same: pick the right markets and be aggressive. Samsung just did a better job of that, if today's numbers are any guide.