* Q4 operating profit estimated at record 8.8 trln won
* Q4 sales estimated at 56 trln won
* Analysts predict handset division profit at 5.8 trln won
* Strong handset pipeline, chip recovery to lift 2013 profit
SEOUL, Jan 8 Samsung Electronics,
the world leader in mobiles and memory chips, said it likely
earned a quarterly profit of $8.3 billion, as it sold close to
500 handsets every minute and as demand picked up for the flat
screens it makes for mobile devices, including those for rival
Apple Inc products.
That run of five straight record quarters may end in
January-March on weak seasonal demand, though a strong pipeline
of smartphones - the South Korean group's biggest earner - and
improving chip prices have eased concerns that earnings growth
could slow this year, powering Samsung shares to record levels.
NOTE IS NEW EARNINGS DRIVER
Ahead of full quarterly results due by Jan. 25, Samsung on
Tuesday estimated its October-December operating profit jumped
89 percent to 8.8 trillion won from a year ago, just topping an
average forecast for 8.7 trillion won in a Reuters survey of 16
analysts. That is 8.6 percent more than the previous record in
July-September. The company estimated its fourth-quarter sales
at 56 trillion won ($52.6 billion).
Shares in Samsung, valued at close to $230 billion, gained
44 percent in 2012, easily outpacing a 9 percent rise on the
broader Korean market and beating Apple's 31 percent
Shipments of Samsung's flagship Galaxy S III, which overtook
the iPhone 4S in the third quarter to become the world's
best-selling smartphone, are likely to have slipped to around 15
million in the last quarter from 18 million in July-September.
But estimated sales of around 8 million Galaxy Note II
phone-cum-tablets, or 'phablets', should more than make up for
that - pushing overall smartphone shipments to around 63
million, analysts estimate.
There has been increased speculation that Samsung will
launch the next version of its Galaxy S in the first quarter,
possibly with an unbreakable screen and full high-definition
quality resolution boasting 440 pixels per inch, as well as a
better camera and a more powerful processor.
While Apple depends on a single smartphone model, the
iPhone, Samsung blankets the market with a range of devices -
from the very high-end to cheaper and regional alternatives. The
South Korean group put out 37 variants last year - increasing
its share of the market to 35 percent in the third quarter,
according to Mirae Asset Securities - versus HTC Corp's
18 models, Nokia's 9 and LG Electronics'
24. Apple rolled out just the iPhone 5.
Samsung is expected to further widen its lead over Apple
this year, driven by its diversified product line-up, according
to market researcher Strategy Analytics, which predicts Samsung
will sell 290 million smartphones, up from a projected 215
million in 2012. It sees Apple's smartphone sales hitting 180
million, up a third percent from last year.
Recovering chip prices and flat screen sales will also have
boosted Samsung's component earnings, propelled by booming sales
of mobile devices, including those of rival Apple, whose
iPhones, iPads and iPods use Samsung chips, micro-processors and