SEOUL, April 7 (Xinhua) -- Samsung Electronics, South Korea's tech behemoth, saw its first-quarter operating profit beat market expectations, regulatory filing data showed Tuesday.
Operating profit amounted to 6.4 trillion won (5.2 billion U.S. dollars) in the January-March quarter, up 2.7 percent from a year earlier. It was down 10.6 percent from the previous quarter.
Revenue grew 4.9 percent over the year to 55 trillion won (44.9 billion U.S. dollars) in the first quarter, but it declined 8.1 percent compared with the prior quarter.
The ratio of operating profit to revenue stood at 11.6 percent in the quarter, marking the lowest in over three years since the third quarter of 2016.
The first-quarter earnings beat market consensus of about 6 trillion won (4.9 billion U.S. dollars) for operating profit and 54.7 trillion won (44.7 billion U.S. dollars) for revenue.
Market expectations for operating profit was lowered from around 6.6 trillion won (5.4 billion U.S. dollars) unveiled in February as the COVID-19 pandemic across the world stoked worries about the global economic slump.
Market watchers estimated that Samsung's chip-making unit recorded an upbeat profit as no production disruption was found in semiconductor factories despite the COVID-19 outbreak.
Demand increased for memory chips used for servers as the virus spread encouraged people to stay at home and raised demand for "untact" services such as food delivery smartphone apps.
Market consensus for the first-quarter operating profit of Samsung's chip-making unit was set at 3.7 trillion won (3 billion U.S. dollars).
The IT & mobile communications division, which makes smartphones, was estimated to have recorded an operating profit of 2.4 trillion won (2 billion U.S. dollars) in the March quarter.
The sale of flagship smartphones such as Galaxy S20 and foldable phones was believed to have declined amid the global economic slowdown, but the smartphone unit's operating profit was modest as the local currency depreciated versus the U.S. dollar.
The won/dollar exchange rate averaged 1,193.6 won per dollar in the first quarter, up from 1,175.8 won in the prior quarter. The South Korean currency's fall to the greenback raised the repatriated earnings from smartphone export.
The number of Galaxy S20 sold in the first quarter was estimated at less than 60 million, but higher product price and lower marketing cost was believed to have contributed to the modest earnings in the smartphone business.
The display panel business was estimated to have posted an operating loss in the first quarter on lower panel price and weak demand.
The consumer electronics division, which manufactures TVs and home appliances, was also believed to have seen a fall in the first-quarter operating profit.
Outlook for Samsung's second-quarter earnings was bleak on growing concerns that the COVID-19 outbreak across the globe would hit hardest the world economy in the April-June quarter.
Demand for memory chips used for mobile phones was forecast to reduce in the second quarter, offsetting robust demand for chips used for servers.
The sale of smartphones and consumer electronics was expected to slide in the June quarter amid the rising number of factories closed off across the world.