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A man walks out of Samsung's Seocho building in Seoul on April 7, 2021.

JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd on Wednesday said first-quarter profit likely rose 44 per cent, with analysts attributing the surge to brisk sales of smartphones and TVs, albeit tempered by a likely fall in chip earnings after a storm halted U.S. output.

The South Korean technology giant forecast January-March operating profit of 9.3 trillion won ($8.32 billion), matching a weighted average analyst forecast from Refinitiv SmartEstimate.

Analysts said Samsung’s mobile division likely saw operating profit soar more than 1 trillion won to about 4.15 trillion won after its flagship Galaxy S21 smartphone series outsold the previous version by a two-to-one margin in the six weeks since its January launch, according to research provider Counterpoint.

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A lower starting price for the flagship helped sales for the world’s largest smartphone maker during the quarter, with the S21 priced $200 lower than the S20, Counterpoint said.

Profit in Samsung’s television set and home appliance business also likely more than doubled to around 1 trillion won, analysts said, due to continued stay-at-home demand.

Cross-town TV and home appliance rival LG Electronics on Wednesday announced its largest-ever preliminary quarterly operating profit of 1.5 trillion won for January-March.

In Samsung’s chip division, analysts said profit likely fell 20 per cent to 3.6 trillion won due to the cost of ramping up domestic production as well as losses at its Texas plant following a mid-February stoppage, blunting the benefits of strong demand.

U.S. memory chip peer Micron Technology Inc last month forecast third-quarter revenue above analyst estimates due to rising demand brought about by a global shift to remote work.

The price of DRAM chips widely used in laptops and other computing devices rose 5.3 per cent in January-March from the previous three months, showed data from TrendForce. Analysts expect that trend to continue as a global chip shortage spurs on buyers to snap up supplies.

“Prices are likely to rise further in the current quarter due to solid demand for servers,” said analyst Park Sung-soon at Cape Investment & Securities.

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CHIP INTEREST

When Samsung announces detailed earnings later this month, “there will be interest in finding out how much Samsung is struggling in terms of low yields in its non-memory business, in addition to the extent of the losses in Texas and the U.S. pressure to increase chip investment,” Park said, referring to the number of non-memory chips that pass quality tests.

Analysts have estimated that Samsung will invest about 10 trillion won in its chip contract manufacturing business this year, compared to about 6 trillion won last year.

Two top White House aides are set to host a meeting on April 12 with chipmakers and automakers in attendance on the state of the U.S. supply chain, Reuters previously reported. Samsung is considering a new $17 billion chip plant in the United States.

Samsung also said, in a preliminary earnings release without offering any breakdown of the figures, that revenue likely rose 17 per cent from the same period a year prior to 65 trillion won.

Its share price traded down 0.2 per cent after the release versus a 0.2 per cent rise in the benchmark KOSPI. The stock has risen about 6.2 per cent so far this year versus the KOSPI’s 8.8 per cent.

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