By Lee Youkyung
SEOUL, Oct. 28 (Yonhap) -- Samsung Electronics Co. reported forecast-beating earnings for the third quarter on Friday, driven by a record-high profit from its handset business and a spike in smartphone sales.
Samsung said its earnings could go up in the fourth quarter as mobile device sales will remain strong and TV shipments will increase, helping the company continue to defy slowing consumer electronics demand in developed regions that have dragged down other industry rivals.
"We are cautiously optimistic on (the fourth-quarter) outlook at this point," Robert Yi, Samsung's vice president and head of investor relations, said at a teleconference.
Net profit reached 3.44 trillion won (US$3.09 billion) in the July-September period, down 23 percent from a profit of 4.46 trillion won one year ago, Samsung said in a regulatory filing.
The figure beat a median market consensus of 3.24 trillion won, according to 12 analysts polled by Yonhap Infomax, the financial news arm of Yonhap News Agency.
Sales rose 3 percent on-year to 41.27 trillion won over the cited period, while operating profit fell 13 percent to 4.25 trillion won, in line with Samsung's earnings guidance released earlier this month.
Shares of Samsung Electronics were trading at 936,000 won on the Seoul bourse as of 11:36 a.m., up 1.3 percent from Thursday's close.
Despite a slow recovery in demand for TVs and personal computers in developed regions, booming demand for smartphones, mobile chips and mobile display panels, shored up Samsung's third-quarter earnings, the company said.
"In anticipation of an explosive growth in the mobile market, we have been focusing on fostering growth of certain component businesses, such as mobile DRAM, application processors, NAND and OLED panels," Yi said.
Samsung, which is the world's largest memory chip supplier and the second-biggest handset maker, surpassed Apple Inc. in the third quarter to become the leading smartphone maker.
Samsung's telecommunication division logged a record quarterly operating profit of 2.52 trillion won, as its smartphone sales spiked 300 percent from one year ago and went up 40 percent from the previous quarter.
Based on the estimate of the previous quarter's sales, analysts estimate that Samsung shipped nearly 27 million smartphones in the third quarter, surpassing Apple's 17.07 million iPhone sales in the same period.
Apple and Samsung were the two biggest players in the fastest-growing segment of the global wireless market during the second quarter, toppling Nokia Corp., still the leader in the overall handset market.
The Korean firm, which was a smartphone laggard and had no popular smartphone model in early 2010, sold more than 10 million Galaxy S2 smartphones during the first five months of its global debut.
Profit from sales of dynamic random access memory (DRAM) chips used in personal computers was thin, but strong demand for NAND flash memory, a key component in mobile devices, shored up Samsung's mainstay semiconductor operations.
The display panel business swung to the red from one year ago, posting an operating loss of 90 billion won, as a prolonged downturn in the TV market battered big-size panel prices. But the loss narrowed from the previous quarter on the back of the demand for advanced display panels, called OLED, and the growing tablet markets, it said.
Samsung expects its fourth-quarter profit to exceed that of the preceding quarter unless there is a "significant" deterioration in the global economic situations, Samsung's investor relations head said.
The company is kicking off global sales of the Galaxy Nexus smartphone next month, pitting the new model based on Google Inc.'s latest software against the iPhone 4S from Apple.
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