Smartphones push Samsung to record $4.4 bln net profit

South Korea's Samsung Electronics reported a record net profit of 5.05 trillion won ($4.44 billion) in the first quarter, thanks largely to strong smartphone sales.

The figure, released on Friday, compares with net profit of 2.78 trillion won a year earlier and 4.0 trillion last October-December.

Samsung, the world's largest technology firm in revenue terms, also reported a record operating profit of 5.85 trillion won, a 98 percent rise year-on-year. Sales rose 22 percent to 45.27 trillion won.

The company credited brisk sales of its Galaxy Note and Galaxy S II devices for the record performance in January-March, a quarter which is normally a slow period for technology companies after the year-end holiday period.

Some 73 percent of the total operating profit was generated by the telecoms business. The company is the world's second largest mobile phone maker after Nokia.

Samsung said its display panel business also pushed up profit margins despite a seasonal fall in sales of computer chips and televisions. It tipped further profit increases in coming months.

"We cautiously expect our earnings momentum to continue, going forward, as competitiveness in our major businesses is enhanced," Robert Yi, senior vice president, said in a statement.

Analysts expect the mobile division to remain the biggest cash generator for the company, which is the world's largest maker of flat panels, memory chips and televisions.

Growth in shipments of the Galaxy Note and Galaxy S II and other premium mobile devices yielded high returns, Samsung said, with "significant growth" in China, Central and South America, the Middle East and Africa.

Analysts expect the firm to continue posting record earnings in coming quarters thanks to increased sales of its mobile products. Its new version of the Galaxy S phone is to be unveiled early next month.

From April-June, demand for chips for personal computers would revive following the bankruptcy filing of Japanese supplier Elpida, said Seo Won-Seok, an analyst at Korea Investment and Securities.

Recovery in TV panels would also accelerate, Seo said, predicting a second-quarter net profit of 6.02 trillion won.

Samsung said demand for tablet and notebook panels was expected to increase on seasonal education-related demand. Demand for TV panels was expected to grow due to Chinese Labour Day sales and the London Olympics.

The company said it would continue to boost profitability by expanding sales of premium panel products such as 3D, large size and LED panels.

Smartphone demand was expected to continue to fuel OLED (organic light-emitting diode) panel sales.

-- Dow Jones Newswires contributed to this report --

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