Posted : 2011-11-07 15:59
Updated : 2011-11-07 15:59

’Samsung, Apple to cross-license’

Alvin Lim, associate director of Fitch Ratings
By Kim Yoo-chul

Samsung Electronics may eventually sign a peace treaty with Apple over patents, and the continuing clashes with the iPhone maker will have no rating impact on Korea’s top chaebol, said a top-level credit ratings agency.

The legal tussle between the two electronics giants entered a new phase after European regulators began investigating whether Samsung breached EU anti-trust laws.

The EU Commission has requested information from Apple and Samsung concerning the enforcement of standards-essential patents in the mobile telephony sector, it said in a statement.

“If the situation escalates to a point where both companies do not see any benefit in the ongoing legal battle, it will likely lead to a compromise that serves the interests of both,” Alvin Lim, associate director at Fitch Ratings, said in an interview with The Korea Times Monday.

Fitch said Samsung will maintain its aggressive countermeasures against Apple in an attempt to prevent any further negative impact on sales of its mobile devices.

“Should Apple suffer any damage from Samsung’s counter claims, it will inevitably review and assess the benefit of maintaining its current strategy in light of the potential negative outcome on its sales as well,” said Lim.

“Therefore, it will be critical for Samsung to win at least a few cases as early as possible to induce changes in Apple’s strategy,” Lim, who also covers tech industries for the agency, added.

The fight is further escalating as an increasing number of consumers use smartphones and wireless handsets to surf the Web, play games and download music and videos.

The Suwon, Gyeonggi Province-based Samsung and Apple have been involved in legal disputes since April when the latter filed a lawsuit in San Jose, Calif., claiming that the former’s Galaxy-branded mobile devices “slavishly” copied the designs of its popular iPhone and iPad.

Fitch clarified that it doesn’t have plans to cut its A+ rating on Samsung because it is well-positioned in terms of business profile and momentum.

“Samsung’s mobile division continues to perform very strongly,” said Lim.

“The company is well-positioned in terms of credit rating against its global peers in the tech industry. That’s because Samsung boasts market leading positions in its major business segments, well diversified business lines mitigating the volatility risk, superior technology and a sound financial profile,” he said.

“Fitch does not foresee any significant downside risk in Samsung’s credit profile in the short to medium term.”

Samsung became the world’s biggest smartphone maker in the third quarter of this year after surpassing Apple in the race despite the legal tussle. It aims to sell over 120 million smartphones next year, up from about 87 million this year, according to senior executives.

The U.K.-based ratings firm stressed that it does make sense for Samsung to push the so-called “two track approach” against Apple — business and patent issues.

Apple is the biggest client for Samsung as it buys as much as 9 trillion won worth of components including mobile application processors, LCDs and NAND flash memories for i-branded products.

Despite the legal fight, Apple will keep Samsung as its critical parts supplier because it is the industry’s sole company that can guarantee output commitment, pricing, on-time delivery and qualified products in components.

“Fitch believes Samsung’s current stance is an effective strategic approach. As much as it doesn’t want to lose Apple as its key customer, it will be as difficult for Apple to replace Samsung with others as the main mobile APs and memory chips supplier in the short term,” it said.

Samsung chief operating officer (COO) Lee Jae-yong agreed with Apple chief executive Tim Cook to supply parts over the next few years, pushing the U.S firm to use it chips and LCDs in upcoming i-products.

Touching on the outlook in semiconductors for next year, the ratings agency said, “We believe that a large portion of investment will be allocated for non-memory semiconductors and system LSIs, given the huge growth potential.”

Fitch expects Samsung will reduce investment in conventional DRAM chips given the oversupply situation, and said its 15 trillion won investment plan for semiconductors next year is “reasonable.”

“As for the industry situation, Fitch believes that the DRAM oversupply issue will ease in 2012 due to by limited capacity expansion. We don’t expect any substantial rebound in demand and prices especially in the midst of the suppressed economic conditions in developed markets,” it said, adding that the proliferation of “smart” devices will keep driving stable growth in the flash memory industry.
관련 한글 기사

피치, `삼성전자 신용등급 변경 없다’

- 애플과 결국 화해할 것
- 메모리부분 투자 줄일 것
- ‘비메모리’ 내년 반도체 시장 화두

세계 3대 신용평가사인 피치가 삼성전자의 신용등급을 변경하는 방안을 검토하고 있지 않다고 밝혔다.

통신부분의 성장세가 지속되고 있고 반도체 및 가전등 회사의 다른 사업 역시 경쟁사 대비 안정적인 흐름을 이어가고 있기 때문. 애플과의 특허 싸움이 장기화할 가능성이 높아지고 있지만 이 역시 삼성전자의 신용등급에는 큰 영향을 주지 못할 것으로 보인다.

피치의 앨빈 림 (Alvin Lim) 아시아.태평양 지역 부책임자는 코리타임즈와의 인터뷰에서 ``애플과의 특허 분쟁 때문에 삼성전자의 이익 성장세가 꺾이지 않고 있는 만큼 소송으로 인한 신용등급 변경 가능성은 없다’’고 말했다.

그는 ``신용등급 측면에서 봤을 때 삼성전자는 여타의 다른 전자업체들에 비해 포지셔닝이 매우 잘 되어 있는 편’’이라며 ``반도체와 액정표시장치 (LCD), 통신과 TV등 회사의 주요 사업들이 견조한 흐름을 이어가고 있기 때문에 시장 변동성을 충분히 헷지할 수 있고 안정적인 재무구조를 가져갈 수 있다’’고 덧붙였다.

그는 이어 ``이 때문에 단. 중기적으로 삼성전자의 신용등급이 하락 압박을 받을 가능성은 매우 낮다’’고 설명했다.

특허분쟁과 사업을 분리해 대응하고 있는 삼성전자의 전략에 대해 피치는 ``매우 효율적’’이라며 ``삼성전자가 애플과의 거래를 먼저 끊으려고 하지 않는 한 애플 역시 모바일어플리케이션 프로세서나 메모리칩과 같은 핵심 부품에 대한 공급처를 단기적으로 급격하게 변경하기는 어려울 것’’이라고 진단했다.

이에 앞서 본지의 단독 보도를 통해 삼성전자가 애플에 차세대 모바일어플리케이션 프로세서인 A6를 공급하기로 결정한 것이 알려졌고 스티브 잡스 전 애플 최고경영자 추모식 참석차 애플 본사를 방문했던 이재용 삼성전자 사장이 김포공항을 통해 귀국하면서 기자들과 만나 애플과 2014년까지 반도체 등 부품장기공급계약껀에 대해 합의했다고 밝혔다.

피치는 그러나 삼성전자가 애플의 특허 전략을 수정하려면 최소한 몇 개 국가에서 `승기를 잡는 것’이 중요하다고 지적하면서 소송으로 인해 얻을 수 있는 이득이 많지 않다고 판단될 경우엔 애플 역시 삼성과 화해하려고 할 것이라는 견해를 내놓았다.

피치는 내년 글로벌 반도체 시장의 화두로 `비메모리’를 꼽았다.

이 신용평가사는 ``내년에는 비메모리 반도체에 대한 투자가 늘 것’’이라며 ``삼성전자 역시 메모리반도체가 공급 과잉 상태를 계속 겪고 있기 때문에 내년에 메모리반도체에 대한 투자를 줄일 것으로 본다’’고 예상했다.

피치는 D램 가격 하락으로 인해 주요 메모리반도체 업체들이 가동률을 낮추고 설비투자를 줄이는 움직임을 보이고 있어 내년 전반적으로 공급과잉에 대한 우려는 다소 완화될 것으로 전망했다. 그러나 유럽발 금융불안에 대한 여진이 남아있어 `의미있는’ 반도체 가격 반등은 어려울 것으로 내다봤다.

단 낸드플래쉬의 경우 스마트폰과 태블릿의 성장세가 지속될 것이라며 낸드플래쉬 분야는 안정적인 성장을 이어갈 수 있을 것으로 분석됐다.

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