Tech wrap: Samsung savors smartphone supremacy

January 6, 2012

Samsung Electronics, the world’s top maker of memory chips and smartphones, reported a record quarterly profit, aided by one-off gains and best-ever sales of high-end phones. The South Korean firm posted 5.2 trillion won ($4.5 billion) in quarterly operating profit, beating a consensus forecast of 4.7 trillion won by analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Samsung, which surged past Apple as the world’s top smartphone maker in the third quarter, only entered the smartphone market in earnest in 2010, but its handset division is now its biggest earnings generator.

Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC recorded a worse-than-expected yearly profit decline in the fourth quarter, and the first decline in two years. The former investor darling shocked markets in November by slashing its fourth-quarter revenue guidance, sending its shares down 28 percent in two weeks and 15 percent to date. Investor concerns linger over whether HTC still has the innovative streak that catapulted it from an obscure contract maker to a top brand.

Sony will promote its consumer business chief Kazuo Hirai to the role of president as early as April, taking the title away from Howard Stringer, who is expected to remain chairman and CEO, the Nikkei newspaper reported. Such a move would give Hirai, 51, who made his name in Sony’s PlayStation video game division, more influence over the whole company and its wide range of technology and entertainment businesses, likely cementing expectations he would succeed the 69-year-old Stringer eventually.

Two weeks after disclosing that its website had been hacked, private intelligence analysis firm Strategic Forecasting warned subscribers that hackers were now circulating false emails offering the company’s services for free. Strategic Forecasting, also known as Stratfor, urged subscribers not to open attachments to the fraudulent emails, which offered subscribers the company’s premium content for free as compensation while it tried to secure its website. Stratfor CEO George Friedman said he deeply regretted any inconvenience caused by the latest incident and said the company was still working to reestablish its data systems and Web presence.

Israeli officials said they were concerned the country may be under cyber attack after a wave of credit card code thefts in the past week by a hacker who claims to be operating out of Saudi Arabia. Credit card company officials said 14,000 numbers had been posted on line Tuesday and another 11,000 Thursday. However, they said some of the codes had expired and that the active cards were all being cancelled.

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