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Apr 29, 2016

Samsung Co-CEO to Take Charge of Struggling Display Unit


SEOUL—A Samsung Electronics Co. co-chief executive will take charge of the company’s display unit, which is groping for fresh revenue streams as demand slows and prices fall.

Samsung Display, 85% owned by Samsung Electronics, said Friday it named Kwon Oh-hyun chief executive, effective Monday.

As a co-CEO and vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, Mr. Kwon has long overseen its component business—which includes both chips and displays—but the new position is expected to give him a larger day-to-day role. Samsung Display has struggled to broaden beyond being a supplier to Samsung Electronics.

In addition to making the liquid-crystal displays widely used in TV sets and mobile device, Samsung Display is the world’s top producer of displays using a next-generation technology known as organic light-emitting diode, or OLED. Samsung Electronics’ Galaxy-branded smartphones use OLED displays, which compared with the liquid-crystal displays used by most makers have the advantage of being thinner and not requiring a backlighting unit, allowing the development of flexible screens.

As hype builds around the possibility of such screens in various gadgets, Samsung Display is widely expected to pump up its OLED capacity. Local media reports have said the company recently signed a deal to supply flexible screens for the next generation of AppleInc.’s iPhone. A spokesman for Samsung display declined to comment on the matter.

“The display unit is currently in a bad shape,” said Doh Hyun-woo, an analyst with Mirae Asset Securities in Seoul. “Placing Mr. Kwon in the CEO spot is a reaffirmation that display-manufacturing remains a key business area for Samsung, especially as Apple looms as a potential client.”

One of Samsung’s worst-performing divisions over the past several years, the display unit on Thursday reported dismal first-quarter results, swinging to an operating loss of 270 billion Korean won ($237 million) from an operating profit of 520 billion won a year earlier.

The display maker said it anticipates the appointment of Mr. Kwon will produce “business synergies” with Samsung’s chip division. Samsung Electronics said Mr. Kwon will remain co-CEO, overseeing the component business.

Mr. Kwon, 63, who has a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University, has been praised for his part in making Samsung the world’s biggest supplier of memory chips widely used in smartphones. The chip unit already counts Apple as one of its biggest customers.

Park Dong-gun, the outgoing CEO of Samsung Display, will be reassigned to a not-yet-determined president-level post in Samsung Electronics’ components business, the spokesman for the display company said.

Min-Jeong Lee

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