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Samsung Rides Smartphones, Home Appliances Sale to Post 46.3 Percent Jump in Q1 Profits

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 29 April 2021

South Korean tech giant Samsung Electronics posted a 46.3 percent rise in first-quarter net profits on Thursday, largely driven by robust sales of its smartphones and home appliances due to continued stay-at-home demand.

The firm is the flagship subsidiary of the giant Samsung group, by far the largest of the family-controlled empires known as chaebols that dominate business in South Korea, the world’s 12th-largest economy.

The conglomerate is crucial to the South’s economic health – its overall turnover is equivalent to a fifth of the national gross domestic product.

Samsung Electronics said net profits rose 46.3 percent in January to March from a year earlier to KRW 7.1 trillion (roughly Rs. 47,460 crores).

“Solid sales of smartphones and consumer electronics outweighed lower earnings from semiconductors and displays,” the firm said in an earnings report.

The figures came a day after Samsung’s controlling Lee family announced plans to pay more than $10 billion (roughly Rs. 74,100 crores) in inheritance taxes following the death last year of chairman Lee Kun-hee – one of the world’s biggest-ever such settlements – and donate a vast trove of art including works by Picasso and Monet.

The coronavirus has wreaked havoc with the world economy, with lockdowns and travel bans imposed around the globe for many months.

But the pandemic – which has killed more than two million people worldwide – has also seen many tech companies boom, including Samsung.

Coronavirus-driven working from home has been boosting demand for devices powered by Samsung’s chips, as well as home appliances such as TV and washing machines.

“Pent-up demand has led the growth in home appliances,” said James Kang, a senior researcher at Euromonitor International.

“But once the coronavirus situation improves with the distribution of vaccines, the growth of home appliances will be slower than 2020 as people spend more time outdoors,” he added.

Operating profit rose 45.4 percent to KRW 9.4 trillion (roughly Rs. 62,860 crores), while sales were up 18.2 percent to KRW 65.4 trillion (roughly Rs. 4,37,335 crores)

Pardon call
Analysts say the company has enjoyed a particular boost from rolling out its Galaxy S21 series in January, more than a month ahead of the flagship product’s usual annual launch schedule.

“Samsung remains the largest vendor shipping 77 million smartphones globally in the first quarter, growing 32 percent year-on-year,” said Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics.

“Samsung’s newly launched more affordable A series 4G and 5G phones, and the earlier launched Galaxy S21 series combined drove solid performance in the quarter.”

But this growth may be hampered in the second quarter in the face of a global chip shortage crisis and a decline in market demand due to the pandemic, said Jene Park, a researcher at Counterpoint Research.

“In the case of Samsung, its main components are being procured in-house, thus its production is expected to be relatively smooth compared to other companies,” Park told AFP.

“However, Samsung’s Q2 earnings will be adversely affected by the aftermath of COVID-19 in its major markets, such as India,” he added.

The global chip manufacturing industry had been expecting to see record revenue this year, with the stay-at-home economy persisting, according to Taipei-based market tracker TrendForce.

But power outages across Texas in the US – caused by a severe winter storm – shut down semiconductor factories clustered around Austin in February, including Samsung’s.

“The production line in Austin has been fully normalized in the second quarter,” Samsung said, with the South’s Yonhap news agency reported the company may suffer around KRW 400 billion (roughly Rs. 2,680 crores) due to the plant’s month-long shutdown.

The firm’s de facto leader Lee Jae-yong, the son of the late chairman, was jailed in January over a sprawling corruption scandal that brought down former president Park Geun-hye.

He is also undergoing a separate trial over allegations including stock manipulation for a smooth succession of power.

Experts say a leadership vacuum could hamper the firm’s decision-making on future large-scale investments, which have been key to its rise.

Earlier this week five major South Korean business groups appealed to the presidential Blue House for a pardon for him on national economic grounds.

Samsung Electronics shares were down 0.24 percent in early trade in Seoul.

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Greek Government Rocked by Resignations Amid Long-Simmering Surveillance Scandal

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 6 August 2022

Greece’s conservative government was rocked Friday by a long-simmering surveillance scandal after its intelligence chief and a close aide to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis resigned in the space of an hour. Panagiotis Kontoleon offered his resignation due to management “errors” during his time in the role, Mitsotakis’ office said in a statement.

The announcement that Kontoleon had resigned from his position at the head of national intelligence service EYP came less than an hour after the secretary general of the prime minister’s office, Grigoris Dimitriadis, also quit.

The resignations came a week after the leader of the country’s Socialist opposition party, Nikos Androulakis, filed a complaint with the supreme court over “attempted” spying on his mobile phone using Predator malware.

Two Greek journalists have also taken legal action this year after they claimed to have been victims of surveillance.

Androulakis on Friday called for a special investigation by parliament into the incident.

“I never expected the Greek government to spy on me using the darkest practices,” he said.

Two Greek journalists have also taken legal action this year after they claimed to have been victims of surveillance.

Androulakis on Friday called for a special investigation by parliament into the incident.

“I never expected the Greek government to spy on me using the darkest practices,” he said.

The government has consistently denied any state involvement, saying it had not bought software of that type, but the rows have sparked an outcry in the country.

Government spokesman Yiannis Economou has said it was “plausible” that individuals used Predator to spy and that all of Europe faced surveillance threats.

In November, Greek minister of state George Gerapetritis had insisted to AFP that there is “no surveillance of journalists in Greece” by the state.

“Greece fully adheres to the values of democratic society and rule of law, especially pluralism and the freedom of the press,” Gerapetritis said.

As such, he argued there was “no need for further action” to verify the alleged monitoring of investigative journalist Stavros Malichudis.

Kontoleon, who was appointed EYP head in 2019 after Mitsotakis’s conservative party won power that year, had implied while in that role that the journalists had been targeted on the order of foreign intelligence services.

Investigative websites Reporters United and Inside Story have accused Dimitriadis — a nephew of Mitsotakis — of being linked to the alleged spying scandals involving Androulakis and Greek financial journalist Thanasis Koukakis.

Dimitriadis on Friday threatened to sue Reporters United and leftist daily Efsyn unless they withdraw a story on the case. Koukakis was also warned to refrain from retweeting the story.

In one of his first acts upon assuming power in 2019, Mitsotakis raised eyebrows by attaching the national intelligence service to his office.

The main opposition party, the left-wing Syriza, called the affair “a huge scandal”. Its leader, former premier Alexis Tsipras, said the resignation of Dimitriadis was “an admission of guilt” and that Mitsotakis himself bore some of the responsibility.

“Mr Mitsotakis must give explanations to the Greek people over his own Watergate,” Tsipras said.

A dystopian, Orwellian reality

Experts note that Predator, originally developed in North Macedonia and subsequently in Israel, can access both messages and conversations.

“A few days ago I was informed by the European Parliament that there was an attempt to bug my mobile phone with Predator surveillance software,” Androulakis told the media as he left a court in Athens on July 26.

“Finding out who is behind these harmful practices is not a personal matter but a democratic duty,” he added.

The European Parliament set up a special service for MEPs to check their phones for illegal surveillance software following hacks using a spyware similar to Predator called Pegasus.

Androulakis used the service for “a precautionary check of his phone on June 28, 2022”.

“From the first check, a suspicious link related to the Predator surveillance tool was detected,” his PASOK party said in a statement.

The software can infiltrate mobile phones to extract data or activate a camera or microphone to spy on their owners.

“Predator is among the most expensive spyware and is out of reach for individuals,” cybersecurity specialist Anastasios Arampatzis told AFP, saying only a state would need its sophisticated security features.

“Security and the protection of one’s private life must be guaranteed by any democratic regime. If a state spies on its citizens, we’re heading towards a dystopian, Orwellian reality.”

Spain’s intelligence chief was sacked earlier this year after it emerged that top politicians — including Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Catalan separatists — had been targeted by phone hacking.

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Apple Asks Suppliers to Follow China Customs Rules Amid Sino-US Tensions: Report

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By Reuters | Updated: 5 August 2022

Apple has asked suppliers to ensure that shipments from Taiwan to China comply with the latter’s customs regulations to avoid them from being held for scrutiny, according to a Nikkei report on Friday. Sino-US trade tensions have escalated following US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a congressional delegation’s visit to Taiwan. The iPhone maker told suppliers that China had started enforcing a long-standing rule that Taiwanese-made parts and components must be labeled as made either in “Taiwan, China” or “Chinese Taipei”, the report added, citing sources familiar with the matter.

Apple did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Apple iPhone assembler Pegatron said its mainland China plant is operating normally, in response to a media report that shipments to Pegatron’s factory in China were being held for scrutiny by Chinese customs officials.

Taiwanese supply and assembly partners Foxconn and Pegatron are ramping up manufacturing efforts as Apple is set to launch its new iPhone in September.

Meanwhile, Pelosi’s trip To Taiwan coincided with US efforts to convince TSMC – the world’s largest chip manufacturer, on which the US is heavily dependent – to establish a manufacturing base in the US and to stop making advanced chips for Chinese companies.

US support for Taiwan has historically been based on Washington’s opposition to communist rule in Beijing, and Taiwan’s resistance to absorption by China. But in recent years, Taiwan’s autonomy has become a vital geopolitical interest for the US because of the island’s dominance of the semiconductor manufacturing market.

Recently, the US Congress has passed the Chips and Science Act, which provides $52 billion (roughly Rs. 4,11,746 crore) in subsidies to support semiconductor manufacturing in the US. But companies will only receive Chips Act funding if they agree not to manufacture advanced semiconductors for Chinese companies.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Apple Reportedly Accused of Mishandling Sexual Misconduct Complaints by Women Workers

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 5 August 2022

Over a dozen women accused Apple of mishandling sexual misconduct claims they lodged while working for the iPhone maker, according to a Financial Times report out Thursday.

The 15 current and former employees of the Silicon Valley giant reported either being retaliated against or getting a disappointing or counterproductive response from the company.

Apple did not immediately reply to a request for comment, but told the newspaper it works hard to investigate misconduct complaints and added it would make changes to its training processes.

Sexual harassment or discrimination scandals have rocked Silicon Valley in the wake of the #MeToo movement, which spurred action over the tech industry’s male-dominated culture, attitudes and behaviour.

One of the women cited in the story, Megan Mohr, was inspired by #metoo to report to Apple in 2018 that a male colleague had removed her shirt and bra and photographed her after a night out drinking together while Mohr briefly fell asleep.

After speaking with human resources about her claim, the company noted the worker’s conduct was potentially criminal but didn’t violate any policy in the context of his work at Apple, the story reported.

She quit her job in January, after 14 years at the firm, and is now asking the company to take a hard look at its policies, the report went on to say.

The women interviewed for the story make up a fraction of the some 165,000 people the firm employs globally.

Another woman cited in the story, Jayna Whitt, penned a blog post in which she said a romantic relationship with a fellow Apple attorney had gone bad and become dangerous.

She said the man was unstable, physically violent and emotionally abusive, but when Whitt told Apple, the firm advised her to call the police if she felt unsafe.

Her complaint to the company about the man’s behaviour eventually resulted in her being reprimanded for allowing a personal relationship to interfere with her work, Whitt’s blog post says.

Apple is not the only big tech firm to face accusations about abuse or handling of misconduct claims, game studio Activision Blizzard and Elon Musk’s Tesla have both been roiled by lawsuits.

Six women sued Tesla in December, alleging a culture of sexual harassment at the electric carmaker’s California plant and other facilities that included unwanted touching, catcalls and retaliation for those who complained.

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Oppo, Vivo India and Xiaomi Under Government Scanner in India as ED Takes Action

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By ANI | Updated: 4 August 2022

It’s a perfect storm for Chinese mobile manufacturing companies operating in India.

The Indian government is looking into cases of alleged tax evasion by three major Chinese mobile companies — Oppo, Vivo India and Xiaomi — and notices have been issued to them, respectively. The cases slapped against these companies range from allegations in what the government termed as income tax evasion and customs violations to fraud and money laundering.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday informed the Upper House of the Parliament that the Department of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) issued notice to Oppo for a total customs duty of Rs. 4,389 crore on the grounds of misdeclaration of certain goods, leading to a short payment in duties. Duty evasion, Sitharaman said, is about Rs. 2,981 crores.

Separately, ED had reportedly conducted searches at more than 40 locations including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and some southern states in connection in connection with a money laundering case registered against Chinese smartphone manufacturer Vivo.

Earlier in July, the ED reportedly blocked nearly 119 bank accounts linked to Vivo’s India that were holding several hundred crores as part of a probe into alleged money-laundering which the enforcement agency termed a “heinous economic offence”. In response, the mobile company moved to Delhi High Court seeking permission to operate its bank account to which the Court allowed the company to operate the bank accounts subject to furnishing a bank guarantee of Rs. 950 crores.

The latest, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) again on Wednesday said it detected customs duty evasion of around Rs. 2,217 crore by Vivo Mobile India.

Coming to Xiaomi, three showcase notices have been issued and their approximate duty liability is about Rs 653 crore, of which it had deposited only Rs 46 lakh, Sitharaman on Tuesday said.

ED in late April reportedly seized Rs. 5,551.27 crore of Xiaomi Technology India Pvt Ltd– a wholly-owned subsidiary of the China-based Xiaomi group– under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) in connection with illegal remittances made by the firm in February this year.

The seized amount of Rs. 5,551.27 crore, it had alleged, was lying in the bank accounts of Xiaomi Technology India Pvt Ltd, which started its operations in India in 2014 and started remitting the money in 2015.

After the ED’s crackdown, Chinese telecom firm Xiaomi said it was committed to working closely with the government authorities to clarify what it termed as “misunderstandings”.

“As a brand committed to India, all our operations are firmly compliant with local laws and regulations. We have studied the order from government authorities carefully,” a Xiaomi spokesperson had then said, adding that it believed the company’s royalty payments and statements to the bank were all “legit and truthful”.

Also, ED had reportedly summoned Manu Kumar Jain, a former head of Xiaomi’s India unit, in the case in mid-April this year.

It doesn’t stop there.

Minister Sitharaman on Tuesday also said the ED was looking at 18 companies that were established by Vivo, where they have voluntarily remitted Rs. 62,000 crores as deposits.

Upon repeated charges against the Chinese companies related to serious economic offences, Beijing responded by saying it was closely following developments besides stressing on the matter that the Chinese government has always asked the companies to abide by laws and regulations when doing business overseas.

China also expressed hope the Indian authorities will abide by laws as they carry out the investigation and enforcement activities and provide a truly fair business environment.

“We hope the Indian authorities will abide by laws as they carry out the investigation and enforcement activities and provide a truly fair, just and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies investing and operating in India,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson had said.

According to the Indian foreign ministry spokesperson, companies who operate here need to follow the law of the land and it believes that the authorities are taking steps as per law.

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Samsung Production Slowdown Due to Cut in Global Demand Affects Workers in Vietnam

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By Reuters | Updated: 4 August 2022

Samsung Electronics Ltd has scaled back production at its massive smartphone plant in Vietnam, employees say, as retailers and warehouses grapple with rising inventory amid a global fall in consumer spending.

America’s largest warehouse market is full and major US retailers such as Best Buy and Target Corp warn of slowing sales as shoppers tighten their belts after early COVID-era spending binges.

The effect is acutely felt in Vietnam’s northern province of Thai Nguyen, one of Samsung’s two mobile manufacturing bases in the country where the world’s largest smartphone vendor churns out half of its phone output, according to the Vietnam government.

Samsung, which shipped around 270 million smartphones in 2021, says the campus has the capacity to make around 100 million devices a year, according to its website.

“We are going to work just three days per week, some lines are adjusting to a four-day workweek instead of six before, and of course no overtime is needed,” Pham Thi Thuong, a 28-year-old worker at the plant told Reuters.

Reuters could not immediately establish whether Samsung is shifting production to other manufacturing bases to make up for reduced output from the Vietnamese factory. The company also makes phones in South Korea and India.

Samsung told Reuters it has not discussed reducing its annual production target in Vietnam.

The South Korean tech giant is relatively optimistic about smartphone demand in the second half, saying on its earnings call last week that supply disruptions had mostly been resolved and that demand would either stay flat or even see single-digit growth.

It is aiming for foldable phone sales to surpass that of its past flagship smartphone, the Galaxy Note, in the second half. It is expected to unveil its latest foldables on August 10.

But a dozen workers interviewed by Reuters outside the factory almost all said business is not good.

Thuong and her friends who have been working for Samsung for around five years said they had never seen deeper production cuts.

She said managers had told workers inventories were high and there were not many new orders.

Research firm Gartner expects global smartphone shipments to decline by 6 percent this year due to consumer spending cuts and a sharp sales drop in China.

Samsung is Vietnam’s biggest foreign investor and exporter, with six factories across the country, from northern industrial hubs Thai Nguyen and Bac Ninh where most phones and parts are manufactured, to Ho Chi Minh City’s plant making fridges and washing machines.

The South Korean company has poured $18 billion (roughly Rs. 1,43,190 crore) into Vietnam, powering the country’s economic growth. Samsung alone contributes one fifth of Vietnam’s total exports.

Its arrival nearly a decade ago in Thai Nguyen, about 65km (40 miles) from the capital Hanoi, transformed the area from a sleepy farming district into a sprawling industrial hub that now also manufactures phones for Chinese brands including Xiaomi Corp.

Generous benefits including subsidised or free meals and accommodation have lured tens of thousands of young workers to the region, but reduced workhours have now left many feeling the pinch.

“My salary was cut by half last month because I just worked four days and spent the remaining week doing nothing,” said worker Nguyen Thi Tuoi.

Job cuts are on some workers’ minds but so far none have been announced.

“I don’t think there will be job cuts, just some working hour cuts to suit the current global situation,” said one worker, declining to be named because she did not want to risk her team leader role.

“I do hope that the current cut will not last long and we will soon be back to normal pace.”

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Vivo India Accused of Rs. 2,200 Crore Tax Evasion by Directorate of Revenue Intelligence: Details

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By Agencies | Updated: 3 August 2022

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence has accused Chinese-owned Vivo Mobile of evading taxes worth Rs. 2,200 crore, it said in a statement. The tax evasion allegation is the country’s second this week against a Chinese phone-maker. The DRI detected customs duty evasion, following which it has issued a show cause notice to Vivo India, the statement said.

A show cause notice is a formal demand for an accused party to justify themselves.

The DRI’s investigation led to the finding of “incriminating evidence indicating wilful mis-declaration in the description of certain items imported,” the statement said.

Vivo India did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Last month, it was reported that the financial crime-fighting agency, the Enforcement Directorate, had raided Vivo’s properties in the country.

On Tuesday, the DRI issued a show-cause notice to Oppo, another Chinese phone-maker, demanding duty of Rs. 4,400 crore.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday said that the government is looking into cases of alleged tax evasion by three mobile companies from China — Oppo, Vivo India and Xiaomi — and notices have been issued to them.

“The Department of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has issued notice to Oppo, the mobile company, for a total customs duty of Rs 4,389 crore, and these are on the grounds of misdeclaration of certain goods, leading to a short payment in customs duty. That duty evasion, we think, is about Rs 2,981 crores,” Sitharaman said in the Rajya Sabha in response to a question by BJP member Sushil Modi.

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