Huawei, China's largest telecommunications equipment company, is becoming more of a "double-edged sword" to Samsung Electronics. Huawei is one of Samsung's top five customers, but competition between the two companies is heating up in 5G communication equipment, smartphones, and mobile application processors (APs). In particular, as China is pushing for “China Manufacturing 2025” to boost self-sufficiency in memory semiconductors such as DRAMs and NAND flashes, industry experts say that Huawei’s contribution to Samsung Electronics' sales may drop sharply six years later.
According to Samsung Electronics' third-quarter business report released on Dec. 4, Huawei was named one of Samsung's five major corporate customers along with Apple, Best Buy, Deutsche Telekom and Verizon.
Apple, Best Buy, Deutsche Telecom, and Verizon have been named Samsung's major customers for years, while Huawei was put on the list in the first half of last year. Huawei receives parts for smartphones such as memory semiconductors from Samsung Electronics.
Samsung benefits from trade with Huawei. Samsung’s sales in China in the third quarter of this year posted 28.31 trillion won, a sharp drop from 43.38 trillion won a year ago, due to a plunge in memory semiconductor prices. But its sales would have been worse without its trade with Huawei. In particular, Huawei contributes to expansion of 5G mobile services as it sells 5G communications equipment to telecom carriers at prices which are only 60 percent of those quoted by Samsung Electronics and Ericsson. Samsung hopes that diffusion of 5G services will increase demand for memory semiconductors.
In the meantime, some experts raise concerns that Huawei may eventually hobble Samsung Electronics. Huawei's main revenue sources almost overlap those of Samsung Electronics' IT & Mobile (IM) Division. Some analysts say that Huawei’s 5G network equipment is superior to that of Samsung Electronics in terms of technology and price competitiveness. In the smartphone sector where Samsung Electronics is the world’s number one player, Huawei is catching up fast. According to Gartner, a market research firm, Samsung Electronics ranked first with a 20.4 percent market share in the second quarter. Huawei came in second with 15.8 percent.
Huawei is also competing with Samsung Electronics in the system semiconductor market. Samsung has released the Exynos to expand its share of the mobile application processor (AP) market, which is dominated by Qualcomm and Apple. Huawei is also employing similar strategy with its Kirin series. In the second quarter of this year, Huawei's share of the AP market was 12.9 percent, almost equal to Samsung’s 13.1 percent.
Most of all, as China is increasing investment in elevating self-sufficiency in memory chip supply, Samsung's dependence on Huawei and other Chinese IT companies for sales may plummet after several years. Considering the fact that Huawei is enjoying about a 50 percent share in the Chinese smartphone market and China places its top priority in fostering Chinese companies, Huawei may increase production of smartphones loaded with Chinese DRAMs and NAND flashes.