SEOUL, April 7 (Xinhua) -- Samsung Electronics logged a near-record operating profit in the January-March quarter despite the absence of Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, who has been in custody for bribery charges.
Samsung's operating profit reached 9.9 trillion won (8.7 billion U.S. dollars) in the first quarter, the second-biggest quarterly profit in the company's history, a regulatory filing showed Friday.
It was up a whopping 48.2 percent from a year earlier. From the previous quarter, the profit gained 7.38 percent.
The first-quarter profit beat market consensus of about 9.4 trillion won. Expectations for the second-quarter profit are running high on the release of its new flagship smartphone Galaxy S8.
The discontinuation of the fire-prone Galaxy Note 7 smartphone in October last year weakened Samsung's mobile phone business in recent months, but the company seemed to have overcome the debacle.
The first-quarter revenue was 50 trillion won, up 0.44 percent from a year earlier. Compared with the prior quarter, the revenue was down 6.24 percent.
Indicating Samsung's improved profitability, the ratio of operating profit to revenue came in at 19.8 percent in the quarter, up 6.5 percentage points from a year earlier.
Net income and detailed profits in each business units would be unveiled later this month.
The better-than-expected earnings for Samsung came amid the absence of Vice Chairman Lee, who had in effect headed the country's biggest tech company before his arrest for bribery charges.
His father Chairman Lee Kun-hee has been hospitalized for heart attack for almost three years.
The younger Lee attended his first trial earlier in the day in a South Korean court for his alleged involvement in a corruption scandal embroiling impeached President Park Geun-hye and her longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil.
The heir apparent of Samsung Group, the country's biggest family-controlled conglomerate, is accused of offering tens of millions of U.S. dollars in bribes to Choi, who was branded by prosecutors as a criminal accomplice to the impeached president.
The bribes are suspected of being given to Choi in return for getting support in the 2015 merger of two Samsung affiliates, which is seen as extremely crucial to the younger Lee to inherit Samsung's management control from his ailing father.
Lee's arrest had raised concerns among conglomerates, called chaebol here, about the possible negative effect on Samsung's businesses, but it proved to be an unnecessary anxiety as seen in the better-than-forecast first-quarter earnings result.
It indicated the effective management of Samsung by professional executives, rather than the heir of the founding family. Samsung shares have gained ground despite the younger Lee's detention.
Samsung's earnings are believed to have been led by robust demand for semiconductors, especially used for new smartphones manufactured by rival companies. Samsung is the world's biggest memory chip producer.
Operating profit in the chip-making unit of Samsung is estimated at a range of 5-6 trillion won in the first quarter. The unit posted its record quarterly high of 4.95 trillion won in operating profit in the previous quarter. Enditem