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Apple shares hit all-time high

Sayantani Ghosh and Sruthi Ramakrishnan, REUTERS

An employee of South Korean mobile carrier KT holds a Samsung Electronics' Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet (R) and Apple Inc's iPad tablet as he poses for photos at a registration desk at KT's headquarters in Seoul in this Aug. 10, 2011 file photo.REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak/Files

An employee of South Korean mobile carrier KT holds a Samsung Electronics' Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet (R) and Apple Inc's iPad tablet as he poses for photos at a registration desk at KT's headquarters in Seoul in this Aug. 10, 2011 file photo.REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak/Files

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Apple Inc’s shares scored another record high on Monday after the iPhone maker clinched a resounding legal victory over arch-foe Samsung Electronics Co Ltd that may change the dynamics of the booming mobile computing market.

The world’s most valuable company wasted no time seeking injunctions on its rivals’ gadgets, many of which have made headway on its home turf. On Monday, the company sought preliminary injunctions against eight older-model smartphones, including the Galaxy S2 and Droid Charge.

Apple’s lawsuit had encompassed 28 devices, but many of the accused products are no longer widely available in the world’s largest mobile market. Many on Wall Street believe Apple has momentum behind it in the wake of its near-complete triumph over the South Korean company on Friday.

“The evidence and weight of the case are heavily in Apple’s favor,” said Jefferies & Co analyst Peter Misek. “We expect there is a two-thirds chance of an injunction against Samsung products.”

An injunction hearing has been set for Sept. 20. If U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh grants sales bans, Samsung will likely seek to put them on hold pending the outcome of its appeal.

Friday’s win strengthens Apple’s position ahead of the iPhone 5’s expected Sept. 12 launch and could cement its market dominance as companies using Google Inc’s Android operating system - two-thirds of the global market - may be forced to consider design changes, analysts say.

Apple was awarded $1.05 billion US in damages after a U.S. jury found Samsung had copied critical features of he iPhone and iPad. The verdict could lead to an outright ban on sales of key Samsung products.

While the victory does not cover new Samsung products including the Galaxy SIII, Apple will push its case on these products in the near-term, Evercore Partners analyst Mark McKechnie said.

“While a ban would likely increase Apple’s leading smartphone share in the U.S. market, we believe this verdict could lead to Samsung also delaying near-term product launches as it attempts to design around Apple’s patents,” Canaccord Genuity analysts said in a note.

TOOTH-AND-NAIL

Apple’s shares gained 1.9% to close at $675.68 US, tacking on another $12 billion US-plus to its already historically leading market value. Samsung lost about the same amount in market capitalization after its shares slid 7.5% in Seoul.

“The ruling marks an important victory for Apple against Android. Competitors may now think twice about how they compete in smart mobility devices with the industry’s clear innovator,” Barclays analyst Ben Reitzes wrote on Monday.

If Apple forces competitors to innovate more, it could take longer for competitive products to come to market, and make it more expensive to develop them.

The victory for Apple - which upended the smartphone industry in 2007 with the iPhone - is a big blow to Google, whose Android software powers the Samsung products found to have infringed on patents.

Google and its hardware partners, including the company’s own Motorola unit, could now face legal hurdles in their effort to compete with the Apple juggernaut.

Google shares closed 1.4% lower at $669.22 US. Microsoft Corp, a potential beneficiary if smartphone makers begin to seek out Android alternatives, ended up 0.4%. Nokia, which has staked its future on Windows phones, gained 7.7%.

Even Research in Motion - which has hemorrhaged market share to Apple and Google - climbed more than 5% in early trade before finishing 2% higher at $7.01. “The mobile industry is moving fast and all players - including newcomers - are building upon ideas that have been around for decades,” Google responded in a Sunday statement.

“We work with our partners to give consumers innovative and affordable products, and we don’t want anything to limit that.”

The verdict came as competition in the device industry is intensifying, with Google jumping into hardware for the first time with the Nexus 7 and Microsoft’s touchscreen-friendly Windows 8 coming in October, led by its Surface tablet. Samsung, which sold around 50 million phones between April and June - almost twice the number of iPhones - will have to pay damages equivalent to just 1.5% of the annual revenue from its telecoms business.

“The verdict does not come as a surprise,” wrote William Blair & Co analysts. “From Apple’s perspective, Samsung’s market size position and its leadership in the handset world was something the company could no longer overlook, and viewing this as another ‘imitation is a form of flattery’ was not possible.”

“Companies such as Samsung, who we categorize as fast followers, have been viewed by the industry for their ability to quickly adopt the latest handset trends ... rather than their ability to introduce fundamental innovation.”

(Reporting by Sayantani Ghosh and Sruthi Ramakrishnan in Bangalore, Jennifer Saba in New York; editing by Joyjeet Das, Matthew Lewis and Richard Chang)

 


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