UPDATE 1-Samsung posts $7.4 bln profit as handsets mask weak chip sales
* Q3 operating profit 8.12 trln won, in line with guidance
* Handset division earns 5.63 trln won, 69 pct of total
* Says sees tight Q4 NAND mkt, DRAM oversupply
* Shares up 24 pct YTD; Seoul mkt up 5 pct; Apple up 52 pct
By Miyoung Kim
SEOUL, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Samsung Electronics Co , the world's top technology firm by revenue, reported record quarterly profit of $7.4 b i llion on Friday, with strong sales of its Galaxy range of phones masking sharply lower memory chip sales.
The South Korean firm said July-September operating profit almost doubled from a year ago to 8.12 trillion won, in line with its earlier estimate.
Samsung, reporting its results just hours after main rival Apple Inc, did not detail its third-quarter smartphone shipments, though these are estimated to have soared to 58 million. Apple said it shipped 26.9 million iPhones in July-September It launched its latest iPhone 5 on Sept. 21.
Profits from Samsung's mobile division more than doubled to 5.63 trillion won - more than two-thirds of the group's total - as sales of the Galaxy S III, introduced in late May, powered ahead of the iPhone 5 launch. Samsung is estimated to have shipped 18-20 million S IIIs in July-September.
Earnings from the chip division, where Samsung competes against Toshiba Corp and SK Hynix Inc, dropped 28 percent to 1.15 trillion won as prices of dynamic random access memory (DRAM) chips sagged, though a recovery in NAND flash chips, widely used in mobile devices, helped offset the weakness.
The company said it expected DRAM oversupply to run on into the current quarter, but sees a tight NAND flash memory market.
Samsung's run of four straight record quarters is likely to end in December, with profit growth slowing even more next year as TV markets stagnate and growth in the high-end smartphone market eases from the recent breakneck speed. Profit growth is expected to slow to 16 percent next year from this year's forecast 73 percent, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Samsung competes against Sony Corp and LG Electronics Inc in televisions, and LG Display in screens.
Shares in Samsung have climbed 24 percent so far this year, easily outpacing the benchmark KOSPI's 5 percent gain, but only half the gains made by Apple.