Samsung smartphone executive resigns after one month

3 Feb

A senior Samsung Electronics Co. executive in charge of the South Korean electronics giant’s launch of its next flagship smartphone has suddenly resigned, people with knowledge of the matter said, in the latest management departure at Samsung’s ailing mobile division.

Kim Seok-pil, who was named head of strategic marketing for Samsung’s mobile business in December, will be replaced after just over one month on the job by another Samsung executive, Lee Sang-chul, one of the people said. Lee currently heads Samsung’s Russia operations.

This person said Kim was leaving Samsung because of health issues and could return to the company at a later time.

Kim’s main responsibility had been to oversee the successful launch of Samsung’s next Galaxy S smartphone, expected to be unveiled at a trade show in Barcelona in March.

Kim’s departure comes after dozens of Samsung mobile executives were removed in December as part of the company’s annual reshuffle of key executives. Kim had taken up the position to replace D.J. Lee, who left during December’s restructuring.

Samsung reported a 64% drop in operating profit from mobile phones last week. Handsets accounted for 75% of Samsung’s overall operating profit in the first quarter of 2014, but now comprise just 37% of total earnings, as its semiconductor business picks up speed.

Since last year, Samsung’s leadership in the mobile sector has been under assault from manufacturers of low-cost devices like Xiaomi Corp. in China and Micromax in India. Its Galaxy S5 smartphone, which it began selling last spring, failed to resonate with consumers. selling about 40% fewer than expected, according to people familiar with the matter.

Samsung is hoping to reclaim its handset crown with a new flagship device, which market insiders say will be called the Galaxy S6. On Tuesday, the company sent an invitation for its “Unpacked” event on March 1, where it will unveil the flagship line.

In the premium smartphone market, fierce competition has also hurt Samsung. Samsung sold 71 million to 76 million smartphones in the fourth quarter of 2014, a significant drop from an estimated 85 million to 86 million units a year earlier. Apple said it sold a record 74.5 million iPhones in the fourth quarter of 2014.

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