Samsung Electronics shareholders approved a stock split on Friday making it easier for retail shareholders to hold shares in the tech giant. The company also said it is expecting a better future for its smartphones and semiconductors this year.
The S. Korean tech giant on Friday held its Annual General Meeting of Shareholders for the 2017 financial year in Seoul, attended by about 400 individual shareholders and institutional investors.
The agenda items included approval of the full-year financial statement, election of members to the Board of Directors and amendments to the articles of incorporation for a stock split, which was announced earlier this year.
"Samsung Electronics had an outstanding year in 2017 as we achieved record results despite an uncertain business environment," Oh-Hyun Kwon, Chairman of the Board of Directors, said in his opening remarks. "In 2018, we are committed to delivering another successful year by taking on new challenges and building the foundation for mid- to long-term sustainable growth."
Samsung will increase dividends for 2018 to 2020. The planned 50 to 1 stock split is expected to improve the accessibility and liquidity of the shares.
"We also established the Governance Committee, comprised entirely of independent directors, to address all matters that can have a material impact on shareholder value," said Chairman Kwon.
The company's Board of Directors proposed the appointments of three new independent directors and four executive directors, following last year's leadership changes.
Upon shareholders' approval, President and former Chief Financial Officer Sang-Hoon Lee will be elected to the Board and take the role of Board Chairman, succeeding Chairman Kwon. This will mark the first time Samsung Electronics will separate the Chairman of the Board and the Chief Executive Officer roles.
"The separation will further empower the Board of Directors and enhance its independence," said Chairman Kwon. "The Board will be able to evaluate the company's performance more objectively and have greater authority and efficiency as a decision making body."
The heads of the company's three divisions - Presidents Kinam Kim (Device Solutions), Hyunsuk Kim (Consumer Electronics), and Dongjin Koh (IT & Mobile Communications) - were also nominated to join the Board.
In response to shareholders' concerns over Samsung's struggle in the Chinese smartphone market, Koh Dong-jin, head of the tech firm's mobile division who was among four internal directors newly appointed at the meeting, vowed to restore its reputation in China.
He said the company has replaced senior managers in China and simplified sales teams over the last year to speed up its decision-making process.
The Chinese smartphone market is dominated by Huawei, Oppo, Vivo, and Xiaomi together accounting for 66.3 percent of the market last year, while Apple took fifth place with around 10 percent. Samsung Electronics remained out of the top ranking after it lost ground due to local rivals that have launched competitively priced models.
To solidify its market presence, Samsung said it will focus on promoting sales of the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus smartphones, and also diversifying its product portfolio to tap deeper into the emerging markets. Releasing customized tablets and wearable devices for different markets is also one of its strategies, it added.
Samsung said it will seek to invite more partners to the ecosystem of Bixby, its voice-recognition program, and have its solutions connect to devices and services of other companies in line with the development of the Internet of Things industry.
As for the crucial chip and display segment, the company said it will focus on meeting the rising demand from the 5G, IoT and automotive industries.
"This year, the chip market will experience an increase in demand from the 5G, IoT and automotive industries amid the fourth industrial revolution," said Kim Ki-nam, president and CEO of Samsung's device solution business.
"There will be new demand for high-capacity and high-performance products that can effectively process massive data," Kim added, apparently hinting that the industrywide boom in computer chips will continue this year as well.
Kim said Samsung will continue to expand second-generation 10-nanometer DRAM products and seek to maintain growth by utilizing its new manufacturing line in Pyeongtaek that was completed last year.
Samsung also plans to expand gaps with rivals by developing third-generation 10 nanometer DRAM and sixth-generation NAND flash in the near future.
Concerning the display sector, Kim said Samsung will face uncertainties due to the expanded production of LCD products by China.
"We will deal with the rising demand from smartphone makers for the OLED displays and also enhance competitiveness in the LCD segment through the quantum dot and high-resolution products," Kim said.
When asked about the rise of Chinese rivals in the chip industry, Kim said although it is true that the Chinese companies are making inroads into the market with the support of the Chinese government, the technology barriers in the industry remain high.
"The technology gap cannot be narrowed just by short-term massive investment," Kim said.
Kim also apologized for the recent blackout at its Pyeongtaek line, which resulted in a loss of some 50 billion won (US$46.3 million), saying the company will bolster efforts to prevent such incidents in the future.
Kim Hyun-suk, head of Samsung's consumer electronics business, said the company expects to confront stiffer competition not only from established players in this sector but emerging firms this year.
"The competition will become more complex, as we will not only compete in terms of price and performance but also in the artificial intelligence and IoT technologies," Kim said. He said the company will carefully study the needs of consumers to tackle challenges.
Samsung said it plans to bolster leadership in the TV sector through the premium QLED TVs that are larger than 75 inches.
The company also said it will push into the smart signage industry, along with other business-to-business projects.