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SEOUL: South Korea’s LG Electronics said it will wind down its loss-making mobile division , becoming the first major smartphone brand to completely withdraw from the market.
Its decision to pull out will leave its 10% share in North America, where it is the No. 3 brand, to be taken smartphone titans Apple and Samsung Electronics.
The division has logged nearly six years of losses totalling some $4.5 billion, and dropping out of the fiercely competitive sector would allow LG to focus on growth areas such as electric vehicle components, connected devices and smart homes, it said in a statement.
LG was early to market with a number of cell phone innovations including ultra-wide angle cameras and was once in 2013 the world’s third-largest smartphone manufacturer behind Samsung and Apple.
Later, its flagship models suffered from both software and hardware mishaps which combined with slower software updates saw the brand steadily slip in favour. The company has been criticised for lack of expertise in marketing compared to Chinese rivals.
Currently its global share is only about 2%. It shipped 23 million phones last year which compares with 256 million for Samsung, according to research provider Counterpoint. In addition to North America, it does have a sizeable presence in Latin America, where it ranks as the No. 5 brand.
While other well-known mobile brands such as Nokia, HTC and Blackberry have also fallen from lofty heights, they have yet to disappear completely.
LG’s smartphone division – the smallest of its five divisions, accounting for about 7% of revenue – is expected to be wound down by July 31.
In South Korea, the division’s employees will be moved to other LG Electronics businesses and affiliates while elsewhere decisions on employment will be made at the local level.
LG will provide service support and software updates for customers of existing mobile products for a period of time which will vary by region, it added. Talks to sell part of the business to Vietnam’s Vingroup fell through due to differences over terms.