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Samsung's first quarter result shows signs worst of earnings slump is behind it

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SEOUL, South Korea — Samsung's quarterly operating earnings fell 31 percent from a year earlier but the drop wasn't as big as expected in a sign the smartphone and computer chip giant may be emerging from its profit slump.

The company on Tuesday estimated its January-March operating profit at 5.9 trillion won ($5.4 billion), exceeding the average 5.5 trillion won forecast in a FactSet survey of analysts.

Samsung did not give a breakdown of its financial performance but analysts said robust demand for its mobile chips and improvements in its smartphone business were behind the relative improvement. It will release its full quarterly results later this month.

The company's operating profit was an improvement from the previous two quarters when its mobile business, which accounts for two-thirds of Samsung's income, suffered from a sales slowdown. Samsung estimated that its sales fell 12 percent to 47 trillion won ($43 billion) during the first quarter.

PHOTO: Cho Yang-ho, left, ppresident of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics Organizing Committee, hold a document with Samsung Electronics corporate relations President Park Sang-jin after they signed a sponsorship agreement for the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, April 6, 2015. Organizers of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang signed a corporate sponsorship deal worth 100 billion won ($92 million) with Samsung Group on Monday.(AP Photo/Yonhap, Kim Soo-jin)  KOREA OUT
Cho Yang-ho, left, ppresident of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics Organizing Committee, hold a document with Samsung Electronics corporate relations President Park Sang-jin after they signed a sponsorship agreement for the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, April 6, 2015. Organizers of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang signed a corporate sponsorship deal worth 100 billion won ($92 million) with Samsung Group on Monday.(AP Photo/Yonhap, Kim Soo-jin) KOREA OUT

Analysts believe the South Korean company's profits hit bottom during the third quarter.

They expect a recovery in Samsung's bottom line in the current quarter as the company is set to launch the latest version of its flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S6, on Friday.

After criticism that its phones look cheap and are too complicated to use, Samsung ditched plastic, using aluminum and glass for the new flagship smartphone's body. The company also removed many apps that were installed on the phones that critics said cluttered screen space without being useful.

Solid demand for semiconductor devices that are used as components for mobile gadgets will continue to help drive a recovery in Samsung's profits, according to analysts.

Samsung is the world's largest maker of memory chips. For the upcoming Galaxy S6 smartphone, the company is supplying its own mobile processor that works as the brain of the phone.

Samsung's share price was unchanged in Seoul trading.

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