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Samsung said a "stagnant and fiercely competitive" mobile market had weighed on earnings as marketing spend rose but smartphone sales volumes remained flat. Cook mostly blamed the downtick on "economic deceleration" in emerging markets - particularly in China.

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.

Sales also dropped by more than 10 per cent to 59 trillion won during the same period. The memory chip business was also hit by a drop in prices, the company said.

The new figure was below market consensus of about 13.5 trillion won, according to market researcher FnGuide.

Samsung said it expects earnings to remain subdued in the first three months of the year due to hard conditions for memory.

"Poor chip sales to Chinese major cloud companies raised Samsung's inventory level which led to chip price declines", said analyst Kim Young-woo at SK Securities. Many models are cheaper than those made by Apple and Samsung.

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"Apple's iPhones have not been selling well in China". Samsung doesn't expect the memory business to pick up much in the next quarter (analysts believe data center customers like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google have enough memory for the time being), but the company hopes for improvements in the second half of the year. "That's even worse for Samsung because that would drag its chip prices down", Roh said, referring to Apple as a Samsung chip client.

Last year, Samsung shares lost 24 percent and LG fell 41 percent amid a global tech selloff prompted by investor fears over the impact on supply chains of the Sino-U.S. trade war.

Shares in Samsung Electronics, the flagship subsidiary of the giant Samsung Group that dominates South Korea's economy, rose 0.5 percent in early morning trading.

Statistics also showed that Huawei Technologies Co Ltd continued to lead China's smartphone market during the third quarter of previous year, with a 23 percent market share, followed by Vivo and Oppo, which account for 21 percent respectively.

"Samsung is losing its ground to Chinese rivals, such as Huawei and Xiaomi that offer reasonably priced smartphones, not only in the domestic market, but also in Southeast Asia and European countries", said Jia Mo, a research analyst with technology consultancy Canalys.