SINGAPORE — Samsung Electronics on Friday said its operating profit for the quarter that ended in December likely rose 26% from a year ago to 9 trillion Korean won ($8.22 billion).
It was mostly in line with analysts' estimate of 9.1 trillion won, according to Refinitiv SmartEstimate.
Samsung Electronics shares in South Korea jumped 7.12% on Friday.
The company said its fourth-quarter consolidated sales likely came in at 61 trillion won, up almost 2% from a year earlier. Samsung did not break down how each business unit performed including its main profit-making semiconductor business.
Full results for the December quarter are due later this month.
Samsung's guidance fell behind analysts' expectations for two reasons, according to Daniel Kim, senior research analyst at Macquarie Equities Research.
"One, strong Korean won against (a) couple of major currencies like U.S. dollar and euro," he said Friday on CNBC's "Squawk Box Asia." The other reason is the "disappointing" smartphone sales, which had been quite erratic over past quarters, Kim said.
But the analyst is bullish on the stock. He pointed out that memory chip prices are set to turn around this quarter, with average selling prices expected to climb — that would benefit the semiconductor business.
"The duration of the memory upturn is likely to be much longer than many people think. So that's why I am very comfortable with my outperform rating on the stock," Kim said, adding that Samsung remains "one of the cheapest semiconductor stock globally."
Both operating profit and consolidated sales fell quarter-on-quarter, based on Friday's guidance.
In the three months between July to September, the world's largest smartphone maker posted a 59% on-year jump in operating profit to 12.35 trillion won, partly due to a boost in demand for smartphones and consumer electronics.
But Samsung had warned it expected profits to decline in the December quarter due to weak memory chip demand and intense competition in the smartphone space.
Counterpoint Research said last month that Apple's iPhone 12 became the world's best-selling 5G smartphone model in October, closely followed by the iPhone 12 Pro. That was despite a delayed launch that resulted in only two weeks of sales for the month.
Both iPhone models dethroned Samsung's Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G, which was the best-selling 5G device in September, Counterpoint said.
Samsung is expected to launch the newest versions of its flagship Galaxy smartphones next Thursday, earlier than usual.
Counterpoint said in a separate note this week that it estimates Samsung's new Galaxy S21 will likely ship almost 30% fewer units over four quarters than 2019's Galaxy S10 device.