Samsung Electronics Co said its first-quarter net income plunged 39 percent as consumers switched to bigger iPhones, squeezing its profit from the mobile business to less than half from a year earlier.
The company reported Wednesday that its January-March income was 4.63 trillion won ($4.35 billion), compared with 7.49 trillion won one year earlier.
That was lower than analysts' consensus of 4.97 trillion won, according to financial data provider Factset.
Sales fell 12 percent from a year earlier to 47.12 trillion won while operating income dropped 30 percent to 5.98 trillion won, in line with Samsung's earnings preview earlier this month.
The wider-than-expected drop in net profit was due to a big profit plunge in Samsung's mobile business. The maker of Galaxy smartphones said its mobile division generated 2.74 trillion won in quarterly profit, compared with 6.43 trillion won a year earlier.
Analysts estimate Samsung sold more smartphones than Apple during the quarter but the Korean firm lost its share in the high-end market to Apple after the maker of the iPhone began offering models with bigger screens last fall.
Apple on Tuesday reported that it sold 61 million iPhones in the quarter, which drove another quarter of blow-out profits.
Samsung, which does not disclose its smartphone shipments, is estimated to have sold 81 million smartphones during the quarter according to analysts. But most of the sales increase came from mid-level handsets like the Galaxy A series, which are sold at a cheaper price than its flagship models.
The Korean company said its profits will increase during the second quarter as the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge with curved screens expand sales after their global launch this month. But the shipments of those high-end phones will not be big enough to offset decreased sales of middle- to low-end models, it said. Marketing expenses will also go up, pressuring its profit margin.
Samsung is betting big on the Galaxy S6 series to recover market share in key markets such as China, where it lost its leading position to Apple and Xiaomi. As part of its push to make new smartphones more attractive, Samsung acquired mobile-payment startup LoopPay this year and introduced Samsung Pay, a mobile payment system on the latest Galaxy phones. The company also introduced new design elements to the S6 Edge phone, which has screens that curve.
Samsung said demand for the S6 Edge has exceeded expectations but the limited supply for the curved displays restricted sales. Park Jinyoung, vice president at Samsung's mobile communications business, said supply conditions of the curved displays will improve during the second quarter. Analysts said the improvement in Samsung's mobile profit hinges on how quickly the company can catch up demand for the S6 Edge smartphones, which are about $100 more expensive than the S6 model.
But even then, they questioned if the latest Galaxy S6 series would be strong enough to stave off competition from the bigger iPhone models.
“The shipments of the plain S6 model and the Edge model will be not bad, but it won't be surprising,” said Peter Yu, an analyst at BNP Paribas. “What is important is how many they can sell during the second half of this year.”
The only business that saw an improvement in profit during the first three months of this year was Samsung's component division that supplies chips and displays for makers of smartphones and televisions, including Apple Inc. Samsung's consumer electronics division that makes television sets turned unprofitable, losing 140 billion won during the quarter.
Looking ahead, Samsung said its overall earnings will increase during the second quarter from the previous three months, as sales of premium smartphones such as its Galaxy series as well as the iPhones drive demand for its semiconductor products and display panels.