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Samsung Electronics CEO Kwon announces shock resignation as profits burst

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Samsung Electronics Co Ltd said on Friday its CEO and Vice Chairman Kwon Oh-hyun plans to step down from management, deepening concerns over a leadership vacuum at the tech giant after group scion Jay Y. Lee was jailed for bribery.

The surprise resignation of Samsung’s chip and display head came as he was expected to take a bigger role following Lee’s arrest in February and the departures of other key executives in the wake of the bribery scandal.

The move came on the same day the South Korean smartphone maker forecast record third-quarter operating profit on the back of the memory chip business which Kwon was instrumental in building into the world leader.

“The timing is nonsensical. Samsung tipped record earnings, it’s going to be better in the fourth-quarter, and all that’s been driven by Kwon’s components business,” said Park Ju-gun, head of research firm CEO Score.

Kwon, 64, is seen as Samsung Group No. 2. As well as being chairman of the board and a board director, he heads the components business – including memory chips – and the display business.

In a statement, the man known as “Mr Chip” said the time had come to “start anew with new spirit and young leadership”.

“We are fortunately making record earnings right now, but this is the fruit of past decisions and investments; we are not able to even get close to finding new growth engines by reading future trends right now,” he added.

The world’s biggest maker of memory chips, smartphones and TVs is set to smash its annual profit record this year, thanks partly to soaring demand for memory chips. Semiconductors were Samsung’s top earner in the three months through June, making a record 8 trillion won ($7.20 billion).

The global chip industry is undergoing a major shift with Japan’s Toshiba Corp partnering with home rival SK Hynix, and other firms consolidating in search of new growth areas like artificial intelligence and automobiles.

Shares in Samsung, worth about $310 billion, fell 1.5 percent on Friday after hitting an all-time high earlier in the day.

The departure of 32-year Samsung veteran Kwon after five years in the top job comes at a time of leadership uncertainty at the company.

Choi Gee-sung, Jay Lee’s mentor, quit earlier this year for his alleged role in the bribery scandal, and Samsung Electronics now needs to fill several more key roles with Kwon’s exit.

Kwon would serve out his term as chairman of the board and board director until March 2018, the company said. He is also not stepping down immediately from his two other roles.

A Samsung Electronics spokeswoman declined comment on the exact timing of succession and potential successors for Kwon’s roles.

While Samsung Group is South Korea’s top conglomerate with businesses ranging from smartphones to hotels – it has had no ‘Plan B’ for taking big decisions following Lee’s arrest, people familiar with the matter have said.

“I‘m worried about a leadership vacuum at a time when Lee is absent from management,” Chung Sun-sup, chief executive of research firm Chaebul.com, said following Kwon’s announcement.

The leadership changes also could be an opportunity for a new generation to emerge, he added.

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Somalia, Ethiopia to jointly invest in seaports

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Somalia and Ethiopia announced they were jointly investing in four seaports to attract foreign investment to their two countries, the latest move in a tussle for access to ports along one of the world’s most strategic waterways.

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After Somalia’s president Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo hosted Ethiopia’s prime minister Abiy Ahmed for a meeting at the presidential palace in Mogadishu, the two leaders issued a joint statement of pledges to cooperate on everything from the development of infrastructure including roads linking the two countries to expanding visa services to promote cultural exchanges. 

The statement did not elaborate on which ports the two countries would develop.

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Ethiopian Government states reason for airline privatisation.

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Ethiopia’s government has explained that privatisation of the national airline and state telecommunications company is being done to ease the shortage of foreign currency.

Ethiopia announced last week plans to open its state-run telecoms monopoly and state-owned Ethiopian Airlines to private domestic and foreign investment.



In an exclusive interview with state broadcaster, Fana BC, Dr. Yinager Desie, Commissioner of the Ethiopian National Planning Commission said lower export performance, failure of mega projects to commence production, high demand for imported goods and growing external debt burden have worsened the shortage of foreign currency.

Ethiopia requires more than $13 billion over the coming two years for oil importation, private investment, upgrading of existing projects and for repayment of external debt.

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South African telecommunications firms MTN Group and Vodacom Group have already expressed interest in taking up investment options in Ethiopia’s telecom sector as soon as it opens up.

Desie says the privatised enterprises would generate large amount of foreign currencies to tackle shortage.

The commission will therefore give priority to foreign companies in privatising the enterprises as government’s decision is targeted obtaining foreign currency.

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Uganda approves new coffee law.

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Uganda governing Cabinet has approved a new coffee law, which is expected to streamline mushrooming institutions and players in the sub-sector that contributes sh158b to the economy every month.

According to Col Shaban Bantariza, the deputy government spokesperson, the proposed new law will also repeal the existing legal framework that establishes the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA).

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“The National Coffee Bill intends to facilitate the development of a competitive, equitable and sustainable Coffee Industry by promoting Coffee research, good Coffee farming practices, domestic consumption of Coffee and adding value to Coffee,” Bantariza said on Tuesday morning.

Bantariza, who was speaking at the Uganda Media Centre, said during a Cabinet meeting on Monday, ministers also proposed the introduction of a coffee auction system, to ease trade in the sub-sector.

“The Bill will also provide for an authority to regulate all on-farm and off-farm activities in the coffee value chain,” he added.

The Government target on coffee production is to export 20 million bags by 2020.

Official figures from UDCA indicate that Uganda currently exports 401,930 bags to the international market annually.

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