Samsung Electronics Co has appointed Roh Tae-moon the head of its smartphone division, tasking a veteran executive with oversight of the world’s largest mobile devices business.
Roh, who was formerly the unit’s No. 2 executive, was to take over the top job from Koh Dong-jin as of yesterday.
Koh remains head of the South Korean conglomerate’s IT and mobile communications division, but hands the reins of smartphones over to a lieutenant credited with building up the marquee Galaxy line of smartphones and tablets.
Roh, a two-decade veteran of Samsung, is regarded internally as an engineering maven who is meticulous about phone features.
Samsung’s shares yesterday climbed as much as 2.5 percent in Seoul.
The largest maker of mobile phones, displays and memory chips shakes up its executive ranks each year, with the extent of the changes often correlated to how its businesses are doing.
This month, the company reported preliminary earnings that showed operating income declining by about one-third from a year earlier.
“Roh is known to be a person who expanded Samsung’s original design manufacturing policy for low to mid-range smartphones,” CIMB analyst Lee Dohoon said. “Samsung may now gradually follow Apple in focusing on design and developments. Though it’s expanded outsourcing for production, Samsung will keep a tighter rein on quality control to protect its brands.”
The company is likely try to keep expanding its market share in Asia and Europe this year while closest rival, Huawei Technologies Co (華為), is struggling to protect its market share in the wake of sanctions by US President Donald Trump’s administration, Lee added.
Samsung is racing to secure an early lead in 5G wireless smartphones as well as foldables, both of which are to take centerstage during its annual Unpacked event in San Francisco on Feb. 11.
The company’s mainstream flagship device — whose name is rumored to be the Galaxy S20, a change in naming scheme — is also likely to be unveiled at that event.
Its devices accounted for 54 percent of the global 5G smartphone market as of November last year, after it shipped more than 6.7 million Galaxy 5G smartphones last year, the company has said.
Separately, Huawei last week said that it shipped more than 6.9 million 5G phones last year.
Roh was also to assume responsibility for repairing the mobile division’s reputation.
Under Koh’s leadership, Samsung suffered from major quality issues at least twice: In 2016, Samsung killed off the Note 7 for good after models tended to burst into flames, while last year, it also had to delay the Galaxy Fold by several months after review models exhibited issues with displays that were easily peeled off.
Those debacles were widely seen as a result of the company’s rushing phones to market to try and steal a march on Apple Inc and Huawei.
Away from smartphones, the chiefs of three key Samsung divisions — semiconductors, consumer appliances and electronics and IT services — remained the same.
That ensures stability given vice chairman and heir apparent Jay Y. Lee is defending himself in court over graft allegations, raising the possibility of a potential leadership vacuum.
Samsung also promoted several presidents in its latest restructuring, including Cheun Kyung-whoon, who now heads networking.
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