Dwindling growth options push Samsung Elec to M&A

Thu Jan 15, 2015 5:22am EST
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* Earnings from Samsung's mobile division shrinking

* Analysts say prospects for organic expansion few

* BlackBerry's security reputation key to enterprise market

* Integration with Samsung culture could prove difficult

By Se Young Lee

SEOUL, Jan 15 (Reuters) - With a bid for Blackberry Ltd , South Korean tech giant Samsung Electronics may be signalling that it has run out of internal options to reverse its sliding profits and protect its shrinking lead in the global smartphone market.

Earnings from its mobile division, once a reliable cash cow, shrank rapidly last year, outsold by Apple Inc's iPhones in the premium segment and squeezed by the likes of Xiaomi Inc at the low end. Samsung tipped its 2014 profit to decline for the first time in three years.

Despite speculation that J.K. Shin, head of the mobile business, might have lost his job in December, Samsung gave Shin a vote of confidence, but analysts say he remains vulnerable if there is no meaningful recovery.

Shin, who has led the mobile business since 2009, oversaw the launch of the flagship Galaxy handsets that propelled Samsung to unseat Apple as the top smartphone maker and earn record profits in 2013. Three of his key lieutenants were relieved of their positions in December, which puts the focus ever more tightly on Shin.   Continued...