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Samsung Electronics braces for profit drop as China slowdown chips away at demand

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SEOUL (Reuters) – Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS) is set to post its first drop in quarterly operating profit in two years as slowing economic growth in China, a key market for the South Korean tech giant, erodes demand for its products.

FILE PHOTO – The logo of Samsung Electronics is seen at its office building in Seoul, South Korea, March 23, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/File Photo

Bleak results from the world’s top maker of semiconductors and smartphones would add to worries for investors, already on edge after Samsung’s biggest rival Apple Inc (AAPL.O) this week took the rare step of cutting its sales forecast on slowing iPhone demand in China.

Samsung, due to publish preliminary fourth-quarter results on Jan. 8, is expected to see a 12 percent year-on-year drop in operating profit to 13.3 trillion won ($11.85 billion) for the period, I/B/E/S data from Refinitiv shows.

“Depressed demand in China will further drive down Samsung’s chip sales there. And China’s overall smartphone market is stalled and declining, which will affect not only Apple but Samsung,” Song Myung-sup, a senior analyst at HI Investment & Securities, told Reuters.

Revenue is expected to have slipped 5 percent, hurt by lower memory-chip shipments. Samsung had in October slashed its 2018 capex, calling an end to a two-year bonanza for memory chips as the global smartphone market slowed.

This headwind continued to buffet the industry in the fourth quarter, with overall sales in the world’s top smartphone market China falling 8 percent in the preceding three months, according to Counterpoint Research.

CHINA IS KEY

Samsung’s worldwide smartphone business has not been spared, with profit at the unit expected to have slumped by a fifth in the fourth quarter, Refinitiv data shows.

“You see, Apple’s iPhones are already losing sales in China. For Samsung too, how long this weak demand from China’s mobile phone market will continue is key,” said Park Jung-hoon, a fund manager at HDC Asset Management, which owns Samsung shares.

Samsung has a less than 1 percent share of China’s smartphone market, versus 9 percent for Apple. But its memory and processor chips, which account for over three-quarters of its earnings and about 38 percent of sales, power smartphones including those from China’s top player Huawei [HWT.UL].

Amid the smartphone woes, overall operating profit at Samsung’s chip business is expected to have slipped 3.7 percent from a year ago to 10.5 trillion won.

Its memory-chip shipments fell 10 percent on an average in the fourth quarter, according to brokerage Eugene Investment & Securities.

MORE PAIN AHEAD

Analysts say that Apple’s woes and Samsung’s are indicative of tougher times ahead for global businesses, as dismal growth in the world’s second-largest economy, exacerbated by a long China-U.S. trade war, takes a toll.

China’s factory activity contracted for the first time in over two years in December. The World Bank has estimated the weakest GDP expansion for the country in nearly three decades this year.

South Korea’s semiconductor exports to China dropped for the first time in more than two years in December.

China is a major market for South Korean chipmakers that, led by Samsung and smaller rival SK Hynix (000660.KS), exported roughly 41 percent of their products to the mainland between January and November 2018.

Samsung’s profit is expected to decline through 2019 as the weakness persists, Refinitiv data showed.

Prices for DRAM chips, which provide devices with temporary workspaces and allow them to multitask, declined 10 percent in the fourth quarter, according to industry tracker DRAMeXchange.

Prices of NAND flash memory chips, which hold data permanently, slipped 15 percent.

DRAMeXchange anticipates memory chip prices to fall 10 percent on an average in the first quarter.

($1 = 1,122.3700 won)

Reporting by Ju-min Park and Heekyong Yang; additional reporting by Hayoung Choi; Editing by Sayantani Ghosh and Himani Sarkar

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Future of Ottawa: Coffee with Francis Bueckert

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Francis Bueckert: When it comes to the current landscape of coffee-roasting companies and independent cafes in Ottawa, I think we are at a really interesting moment in time. There are more local roasters that are doing artisanal small-batch production—with more attention to the quality and origin of the beans.

With larger corporations such as Starbucks closing locations, it has opened a bit of space for local players to grow. We have been lucky to work with many folks in the coffee-roasting community, and we have found that there is a willingness to collaborate among different coffee roasters. For example, when Cloudforest started back in 2014, we were roasting our coffee at Happy Goat and it was the expertise of their head roaster Hans that helped me learn how to roast. Other companies such as Brown Bag Coffee have also lent a hand when we needed extra roasting capacity. There are others, such as Lulo, Mighty Valley Coffee, Bluebarn, The Artery, and Little Victories that are also part of the growing local coffee community. It’s small roasters like these who have shown me what a coffee community can look like, and that we can help to elevate each other, rather than being locked in competition.

If you care to make a prediction… What’s happening to the local café industry in 2021?

We believe that there is hope and that 2021 can be a big pivot year for small roasters and cafes.

This year will not be ideal from a business point of view. However, it could create a shift in people’s attitude toward where they get their coffee. We are holding out hope that people will support the roasters and cafes that are local to help them economically survive what is in all reality a very difficult time.

It all depends on where consumers decide to go this year. People are starting to recognize that supporting large corporations at this moment will be at the cost of the local roasters and cafes. There is the growing realization that a future where there is only Amazon, Walmart, and Starbucks would be pretty bleak. So we have an opportunity this year to support the kind of local businesses that we want to see thrive.

In your wildest dreams, what will the landscape for local coffee roasters and cafés look like in your lifetime?

In my wildest dreams, all of the coffee roasters and cafés would be locally owned and independent. They would all be focused on direct trade and artisanal coffee. Each different coffee roaster and café would know exactly where their coffee came from. Ideally, each company would be a partnership between the farmers who grow the beans and the people here selling them. There would be a focus on how to cooperate and collaborate with the farmers in the countries of origin to share the benefits around. We would all work together and share orders of cups, lids, and other packaging so that we could get better bulk pricing. In this way, we would make our local coffee community so efficient that the large corporate coffee companies wouldn’t even be able to compete.

We would also like to see people use coffee as a way to create social good. For example, we started Cloudforest as a way of helping support farmers in Ecuador who were taking a stand against large mining companies. This remote community stood up to protect their environment, so that they could have clean drinking water and soil for the next generation. They started an organic coffee cooperative to help show that there are other models of development, and we are doing our part year after year to help support their vision. They have a vision of development that does not include mass deforestation and contamination, and organic coffee is a key (among others) to show that another way forward is possible.

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Special events in the Ottawa Valley dominate annual OVTA tourism awards

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The Ottawa Valley Tourist Association hopes that its annual tourism awards will provide a little sunshine during what is a dark time for local tourism operators because of the pandemic.

The Ottawa Valley Tourism Awards are presented annually by the Ottawa Valley Tourist Association (OVTA) to individuals, businesses, and events that recognize the importance of working together for the growth of the local tourism industry, as well as offering exceptional visitor experiences.

“After a year that saw a lot of businesses in the hospitality and tourism industry being challenged like never before, the annual Ottawa Valley Tourism Awards represent a bit of light on the horizon” said Chris Hinsperger, co-owner of the Bonnechere Caves.

The Ottawa Valley Tourist Association’s (OVTA) Awards Committee co-chairpersons, Meghan James and Chris Hinsperger, said they were very pleased with the recent nominations received, especially in the Special Events category. Submissions were received for The Farm to Fork Dinner Series at the Whitewater Inn; Light up the Valley; The Eganville Curling Clubs’ Rock the Rings; The Ontario Festival of Small Halls ; The Bonnechere Caves On-line Underground Concert Series; The Opeongo Nordic Ski Clubs’ Ski Loppet; The Tour de Bonnechere — Ghost de Tour 2020; and The Bonnechere Caves Rock ‘n Roll Parking Lot Picnic.

“During a time when communities were challenged, it is nice to see that people still made an effort to get together and celebrate, albeit under certain conditions. It just shows the creativity and resiliency of our tourism Community here in the valley” said Meghan James, director of sales at the Pembroke Best Western.

There are three Award categories: The Marilyn Alexander Tourism Champion Award, The Business of Distinction and The Special Event of the Year.

Hinsperger, is excited about this year’s awards.

“During this pandemic the hospitality and tourism industry was the first to be hit, was the hardest hit and will be the last of our industries to fully recover. As Valley entrepreneurs we owe it to ourselves, to our businesses and to our communities to be an active part of that recovery. Our livelihood and economic recovery depends on our efforts. And we will get back to welcoming people from all over the world to share a little bit of the place we are privileged to call home. This awards process leaves myself and others fully optimistic about our positive outcomes.”

Award winners will be announced at the Ottawa Valley Tourist Association’s virtual annual general meeting on Monday, May 31.

The OVTA is the destination marketing organization for the Upper Ottawa Valley and proudly represents more than 200 tourism businesses, comprised of attractions and outfitters, accommodation, food, beverage and retail establishments, artists and galleries, municipalities, as well as media and industry suppliers. The OVTA is supported by the County of Renfrew, Renfrew County municipalities and the City of Pembroke.

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Future of Ottawa: Farming with Jeremy Colbeck

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Jeremy Colbeck: Well first, let’s talk about what we mean by farming. Although farms, and farming as an occupation, are in decline across Canada, they are still a major part of our rural landscape. That’s even more true for a strange city like Ottawa which includes a LOT of rural areas and whose urban boundary takes, what, three hours to cross? About 40 per cent of the rural land in Ottawa is farmland. Most of that farming is corn and soybean cash-crop, as well as some dairy and livestock farming. That’s mostly conventional farming (the kind that is profitable but not exactly where you take your kids on a Saturday).

There are also a lot of agri-tourism businesses in Ottawa, which give you that oh-so-good Saturday spot for family donkey-petting and apple-picking. And it’s totally understandable from a business perspective, but sometimes surprising to find out, that even though they grow some of the Christmas trees they sell, they might also be reselling some that come from much larger farms far away. The farmland around Ottawa is also inflated in price because of its proximity to the city, where it is in demand by would-be hobby farmers—folks who want to do some farming on their property in their spare time but make their money (to subsidize their small-scale farming habit) elsewhere. Unfortunately, many of these properties will have large mansions built on them, which will then make them completely unaffordable for the average farmer

There’s also a segment of small-to-medium-sized Ottawa farms that grow “premium” (artisanal, unique, extra-fresh, ecologically- or organically-grown etc…) products that they sell directly to local eaters via farmers’ markets or other direct marketing channels, including on-farm stores and farm stands. That’s where BeetBox fits in.

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