Apple's coronavirus warning that it won't sell enough iPhones is great news for Samsung
- Apple on Monday said it expected to miss its revenue guidance for its fiscal second quarter because of the coronavirus' impact on the company's supply chain and stores in China.
- Its rival Samsung, however, has been far less affected by the outbreak, with a minimal market share in China and a supply chain largely based in Vietnam.
- "Samsung does not say it publicly, but it is relieved," a source told Reuters.
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Samsung Electronics stands to be a major beneficiary of the China production problems announced Monday by its rival Apple, reaping the rewards of a decade-long bet on low-cost smartphone manufacturing in Vietnam.
Half of Samsung's smartphones are now made in Vietnam, where the coronavirus that has crippled the China operations of Apple and many other firms has so far had only a limited impact on its production.
Apple on Monday said it did not expect to meet its revenue guidance for the March quarter because of the coronavirus' impact on both production and sales in China, where most iPhones are made. Foxconn, Apple's main manufacturing partner in China, closed some of its biggest facilities and even diverted production to start making face masks and medical clothing. Manufacturing facilities have begun to reopen, but they are ramping up more slowly than expected, Apple said Monday.
Huawei, another major Samsung rival, has not announced any production problems, but Samsung insiders, analysts, and suppliers expect it to be hit hard as well given its heavy reliance on Chinese manufacturing and parts. Many Chinese and foreign firms have begun to reopen China factories that were idled for weeks, but shortages of workers and other problems have in many cases kept output to a minimum.
Samsung has also largely ceded the China market to its rivals in recent years, meaning it won't suffer from the store closings and drop in demand that is hitting Apple and others.
"Samsung is better positioned to weather the virus fallout than its formidable rivals such as Huawei and Apple," a person with knowledge of Samsung's supply chain told Reuters.
"The virus exposed China risks," the person said. "We feel fortunate that we were able to escape the risks."
Another person familiar with Samsung's thinking told Reuters: "Samsung does not say it publicly, but it is relieved."
Still, two sources familiar with Samsung's Vietnam operations cautioned that should the virus outbreak be prolonged, Samsung would feel the impact, as the company sources many components from China.
Problems with cross-border shipments also cropped up in the early phases of the virus outbreak as Vietnam imposed stricter border controls, according to Hong Sun, the vice chairman of Korea Chamber of Business in Vietnam. The issues have since been resolved, Sun said, but risks remain if Chinese parts suppliers cannot get back to work.
Samsung also relies on Chinese contract manufacturers for some low-end models.
In a statement to Reuters, the company said: "We are making our best effort to minimize any impact on our operations."
TrendForce recently cut its first-quarter production forecasts for Huawei by 15% and Apple by 10%. It cut projections for Samsung Electronics by a smaller 3%. Samsung ended its own smartphone production in China last year as its market share plunged to nearly zero.
Last week, Samsung unveiled a trio of flagship Galaxy S20 smartphones as well as its new foldable phone. Sources said the virus could delay new product launches by rivals.
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