We wrote earlier in the year that Samsung and Pantech will compete in the smartphone and tablet marketplaces in 2013.
The decision comes as a surprise and may raise some eyebrows among analysts and investors who say that Pantech doesn't have much to offer Samsung in terms of technology or software capabilities: it was confirmed today that Samsung invested in $47.6 million in Pantech, the third largest mobile device manufacturer in South Korea, in exchange for 10% ownership stake in the company.
That makes Samsung the third-largest shareholder in Pantech, behind chip-maker Qualcomm and the Korea Development Bank. (We wrote about KDB's investment in Pantech also - read it here.)
Pantech? What's That?
Pantech has not had global success unlike Samsung and LG, but Pantech is still a relatively big player in the Korean smartphone scene, although some would disagree. It's still seen as the 'underdog' in the local smartphone market. It had been in financial difficulties amid stiff competition.
Pantech posted an annual net loss of 188 billion KRW in 2012. What a sharp reverse from a net profit of 102.9 billion KRW in 2011... It was previously a publicly traded company but was delisted in 2007 due to capital erosion. However, with their launch of 'Vega R3' which attracted huge attention from students (having sold 3000 devices per day)through its innovative functions such as 'Mini Window'. Read more about it here.
Pantech had also received investment from Qualcomm (a US based mobile tech giant). They invested $23 million in Pantech so as to raise the stakes in the company from 11.47% to 13.49%. Samsung, on the other hand, paid a whopping $47.6 million for 10%.
We wrote about how this may change the Korean mobile industry, in relation to Samsung, LG and Apple. You can read the story here.
I gave my personal 2 cents about how Pantech will do this year with Qualcomm's investment supporting them - read the story here. Time for an update of that article, with Samsung's investment backing them up? I think so.
Samsung & Pantech... A Love Story?
This investment is obviously intended to solidify the relationship between the two companies. In a statement released through Yonhap News Agency, Samsung said that it intended to "further solidify bilateral cooperation” in their joint operations in smartphone - and no doubt, other technologies.
Pantech is a key compotent customer of Samsung. They worked closely together in the semiconductor and display arena, and last year Pantech purchased $211 million in electronic parts from Samsung and its affiliates.
So, Samsung & Pantech. A love story? Maybe. Maybe not. What do you think? (And don't tell me: "still a better love story than Twilight...)
But What About Anti-competitive Repercussions?
Some concern over anti-competitive repercussions between the intertwined companies has already reached Samsung.
Earlier in 2013, Samsung said that it will focus on attracting investments and improving its financial status, as a means to boost its competitiveness.
So, Samsung clarified the nature of the deal. Samsung said in a statement to The Next Web that "Samsung will have no involvement in Pantech's business management in any way or form". Samsung declined to comment when asked whether the company would ultimately consider buying Pantech.
This is a relatively new strategy, embracing investments in rivals and acquisitions. The company had been banking on organic growth to boost its revenue for years. At the moment, Samsung sits on a pile of cash thanks to the success of its mobile business (its cash and equivalents grew to almost $40 billion at the end of March 2013), and investors have been questioning where the company will be spending its money.
Earlier this month, Samsung invested $122 million Sharp, the Japanese electronics firm, for a 3% stake in the company, enabling Samsung to outsource production of liquid-crystal displays for TV sets (watch out, LG.)
Samsung also has a 5% stake in stylus maker Wacom Co. of Japan, giving Samsung access to technology to develop a better stylus for its smartphones and tablets.
What do you think about this? I smell an article on the duopoly between Samsung and Apple coming up...