The downturn reduced Samsung's operating profit to $3.4 billion in the quarter that ended in Dec. 2022. The company has cited the diminished demand for electronics products and semiconductors resulting from the slowing global economy as the main cause of the drop. (Related: South Korea to spend $450 billion in bid to become world's leading chipmaker.)
"Amid continued external uncertainties, including a potential global economic downturn, overall earnings decreased sharply quarter-on-quarter as we saw a significant drop in the memory business results due to lackluster demand and weaker sales of smartphones," said the company in a statement.
The country's operating profit last year was 13.87 trillion won ($11.06 billion). The last time the company's profits dropped this low was in the third quarter of 2014, when the company reported only 5.9 trillion won in profits ($4.7 billion).
Samsung saw sales worth roughly 70 trillion won ($55.8 billion) during the fourth quarter, down by about 8.6 percent over the same period a year ago.
Analysts note that Samsung has been contributing to the global oversupply of semiconductors due to its increased spending on chip manufacturing last year as the company tried to invest in semiconductors during the global supply crunch.
Oversupply problems have been exacerbated by other factors, including American sanctions on chip exports to China and smartphone production delays at Chinese factories due to Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreaks.
The drop in demand, coupled with oversupply, is forcing manufacturers and vendors like Samsung to lower their prices.
"For the memory business, the decline in the fourth quarter demand was greater than expected as customers adjusted inventories in their effort to further tighten finances by concerns over deteriorating consumer sentiment," said Samsung. "Profits from the mobile experience business declined as smartphones sales and revenue decreased due to weak demand resulting from prolonged macro issues."
Analysts expect the downturn in profits for Samsung and other semiconductor manufacturers to worsen in the first quarter of 2023 before experiencing a slight recovery by the second quarter.
"Memory chip inventories are likely to peak in the second quarter, but Dram and Nand chip prices are likely to rebound in the second half," said Kim Dong-won, an analyst at Korean financial services company KB Securities.
Semiconductor manufacturers like Micron Technology, Kioxia Holdings and SK Hynix are already slashing their capital expenditures and reducing their inventories to adjust to the oversupply.
Samsung has previously stated that it will not slash capital expenditures or cut production outputs. The company just began production in July at its new domestic chip factory in Pyeongtaek, one of the world's largest semiconductor production facilities. It is uncertain whether the recent report on its drop in profits will sway company executives to reconsider this decision.
Chip sales in South Korea dropped nearly 30 percent in December year-over-year, marking the fifth consecutive monthly drop and a reversal from when manufacturers started ramping up semiconductor output to record levels to meet the earlier surge in demand.
Learn more about the state of global economy at MarketCrash.news.
Watch this clip discussing how Taiwan, the world's leader in semiconductor manufacturing, is also experiencing decreased chip sales.