Analysts: Samsung remains world's biggest handset, smartphone vendor in Q3

Samsung Electronics handily beat Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Nokia (NYSE:NOK) and all other mobile phone competitors again in the third quarter, maintaining its position as the world's largest supplier of feature phones and smartphones. However, the company warned that market competition will be fierce in the fourth quarter as it battles head-to-head with the iPhone 5, Nokia's Lumia line and every other OEM's holiday handsets.

Click here for details on Samsung's performance in the third quarter, and its fourth-quarter outlook.

Overall, the South Korean electronics conglomerate posted net profit of $6 billion for the quarter, up 91 percent from around $3.14 billion in the year-ago period and beating analysts' estimates of $5.7 billion, according to Bloomberg. Total revenue climbed 26 percent year-over to $47.6 billion. Samsung's operating profit also shot up 91 percent to $7.4 billion. Both the operating profit and net profit were records for the third quarter in a row, but analysts said they expect that string to be broken in the fourth quarter, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Samsung's telecommunications unit made up 69 percent of Samsung's operating profit, up from 62 percent in the second quarter, masking mixed performances in Samsung's consumer electronics, chip and display units. The telecommunications unit, which includes Samsung's handset business, posted an operating profit of $5.14 billion, up 132 percent from the year-ago quarter. The unit's operating margin was 18.8 percent, up from 16.9 percent a year ago. Mobile sales in particular climbed 82 percent year-over-year to $23.9 billion.

Starting in the middle of last year Samsung stopped reporting how many handset and smartphone units it shipped, making it a quarterly parlor game to estimate how many units the company shipped and where it stands relative to its peers. Samsung said its smartphone sales increased significantly, due to the rollout of the Galaxy S III, and it said its feature phone sales grew slightly from the second quarter.

In place of specific handset shipment numbers from Samsung, research firm IDC estimated that Samsung shipped 105.4 million handsets in the quarter, up from 82.7 million in the year-ago period and easily beating Nokia's 82.9 million in the third quarter of 2012. On smartphones, IDC estimated that Samsung shipped 53.6 million, while research firm Strategy Analytics pegged the number at 56.9 million. Either way, both figures are far ahead of Apple's 26.9 million iPhone sales in the quarter, though it should be noted that Apple had only nine days' worth of iPhone 5 sales in the third quarter.

"The mobile-phone number came out very strong," Kim Young Chan, a Seoul-based analyst at Shinhan Investment Corp., told Bloomberg. "It again confirms there's no real competitor out there other than Apple. Samsung's competitiveness in smartphones will be maintained for a while as the Samsung-Apple duopoly continues."

For more:
- see this release
- see this Samsung presentation (PDF)
- see this IDC release
- see this Strategy Analytics release
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Bloomberg article

Special Report: Wireless in the third quarter of 2012

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