Samsung Electronics is South Korea's largest company, with its core business semiconductors and electronic products. The company has an overwhelming presence in South Korea and exerts a strong influence over every sector. The success of its smartphone business has boosted the Samsung brand power overseas. In 2012, Samsung was ranked ninth in U.S. company Interbrand's best global brands survey. It was the highest ranking among Asian companies, overtaking Toyota Motor.
The business was founded in 1969 as part of the Samsung group, which had started out as a trading and textile company. Last year the company's owner and chairman, Lee Kun-hee, a son of the founder, collapsed from a heart attack. His son, Lee Jae-yong, who is vice chairman, took over the management of the company. As Jae-yong has no brothers, he is expected to succeed his father as chairman.
Samsung group's structure is complicated, with its companies holding each other's shares. The largest shareholder of Samsung Electronics is Samsung Life Insurance, but Cheil Industries, the top shareholder of Samsung Life Insurance, is considered to be the de facto holding company of the group. As of the end of 2014, Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong owned 23.23% of Cheil Industries, indicating a generational shift has fairly progressed in terms of ownership.
While the semiconductor business continues to generate high profits, the smartphone operation, which has been behind the company's rapid growth over the past several years, fares poorly these days. The company still makes high profits as a manufacturer, but needs to explore new businesses to get its growth back on track.