Lighting Industry, News

Samsung ‘denies’ LED lighting exit

Holding on: Samsung under CEO Kwon Oh-Hyun has denied 'rumours' that it is letting go of LED lighting. Is the business caught up in management uncertainties?

Nearly a week after news broke that Samsung might exit the LED lighting business, the South Korean powerhouse has issued a denial, of sorts.

‘Samsung can confirm that rumours on Samsung’s intention to close down its LED lighting business are groundless,’ a Samsung spokesperson finally told Lux in a brief email this morning, after many repeated requests for a comment.

That sounds like a reasonably firm statement, but at the same time it leaves wiggle room. It doesn’t specifically deny an exit; rather, it focuses on the nature of the ‘rumours.’

Nor does it declare an unwavering commitment to the future (in contrast to a clear, strong denial that General Electric issued when rumours surfaced last month that it was selling its lighting business; two weeks later, GE said that it had regrouped its lighting business to foster innovation). 

Reports have suggested that Samsung might exit the LED luminaire business and/or the bulb business. The possibility has surprised industry observers, given Samsung’s proven ability to bulldoze its way into established consumer markets as it has done in mobile phones, TVs and appliances. Samsung has dipped a toe into the LED lighting business, and was expected to fully plunge in.

But the company is currently grappling with a slowdown in core sectors such as mobile phones, which lends some credibility to a pullback in new areas like LED lighting (not to be confused with Samsung’s LED chip business, which is as an established market force). It has recently made moves out plasma TVs and, in Europe, laptops.

It is also wrangling internally with a possible management reshuffle and leadership change that could take place later this year, with 72-year-old chairman Lee Kun-hee in poor health, the Wall Street Journal has noted. It is possible that LED lighting is caught up in those uncertainties. CEO Kwon Oh-Hyun runs Samsung day-to-day. 

A recent article on Australia’s News website noted that chairman Lee has three children with prominent executive roles at the company, and that one of them, 45-year-old vice chairman Lee Jae-young, is the ‘heir apparent’ to his father’s chairmanship. The story said that the Lee family will push to maintain control.

A retreat from LED lighting would it in with a general trend among large conglomerates: Siemens spun off its Osram lighting business in the summer of 2103, and Philips two weeks ago said it will seek ‘alternative ownership’ for its lighting division.

Reports have suggested that Samsung’s corporate management is at least considering moving out of LED lighting and that it will reach a final decision this week. 

Lux has requested further elaboration from Samsung.

Photo is from Samsung Tomorrow via Flickr