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(LEAD) Samsung Electronics may end record profit streak in Q1: analysts
SEOUL, Jan. 14 (Yonhap) -- Samsung Electronics Co. may end its consecutive record earnings in the first quarter due to ongoing lawsuits with Apple Inc. and seasonal factors, data showed Monday.

   In the first three months of this year, the South Korean tech behemoth will likely log an operating profit of 8.28 trillion won (US$7.84 billion), down 5.88 percent on-quarter, according to FnGuide Inc., a local financial information provider.
Its net profit is projected to shrink 4.58 percent on-quarter to 6.8 trillion won in the first quarter, with sales dipping 4.93 percent to 53.2 trillion won over the cited period, according to the FnGuide.

   The world's biggest tech firm by revenue is estimated to have posted an operating profit of 8.8 trillion won in the fourth quarter of 2012, almost double the previous quarterly figure and marking the third consecutive record earnings, the company said last week.

   Analysts said Samsung's quarterly performance may be weighed down by the need to set aside a substantial reserve for its ongoing patent lawsuits against its U.S. rival.

   "Samsung will probably have to set aside less than 500 billion won. It's been argued that the jury's evaluation may have been over-appropriated," said Roh Geun-chang, a HMC Investment & Securities analyst.

   Samsung and Apple have been embroiled in a war over design and technology patents since April 2011 as the two tech giants struggle to gain supremacy in the US$219 billion global smartphone market.

   The two companies have expanded the scope of their legal tussle by adding newly released products to the list of patent infringements, such as the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy Note 2.

   The launching time of Samsung's new Galaxy S4 will also affect its future performance, they said, as an off-peak season soon begins for semiconductors and consumer electronics.

   "If the Galaxy S4 sales aren't reflected in the first quarter earnings, its operating profit will slide to 8.1 trillion won," Roh said.

   In contrast, some analysts predicted the company will bask in record figures in the January-March period, possibly surpassing 9 trillion won in its operating profit.
"A decrease in marketing costs and higher memory chip prices will boost its semiconductor business," said Lee Sun-tae, an analyst at NH Nonghyup Securities.

   Despite mixed earnings forecasts, most analysts revised the company's share price outlook up to 2,000,000 won, citing its sound profitability in the long term. Shares of Samsung Electronics finished up 1.24 percent at 1,552,000 won on the Seoul bourse.

   elly@yna.co.kr
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