Samsung Electronics Co, the world's top technology firm by revenue, reported a record quarterly profit on Friday, aided by its best-ever sales of smartphones, and hiked 2012 capital investment 9 percent to 25 trillion won ($22 billion) to boost chips and flat-screen production.
The South Korean firm, locked in breakneck competition with Apple Inc for the title of the world's top smartphone maker, said its telecoms division raked in a record 2.64 trillion won profit in the October-December quarter, helped by solid sales of its flagship Galaxy line of smartphones.
Samsung reported a 5.3 trillion won ($4.7 billion) operating profit for October-December, broadly in line with its earlier estimate of 5.2 trillion won and topping the previous record profit of 5.0 trillion won earned in the second quarter of 2010.
The latest profit was up 76 percent from 3.0 trillion won a year ago and 25 percent higher than the 4.25 trillion won made in the preceding quarter.
Samsung trails Nokia in mobile phones, competes with Sony Corp and LG Electronics Inc in TVs, Toshiba and Hynix in chips and LG Display in displays.
RIVALRY WITH APPLE
Apple, which lost its title of the biggest smartphone maker to Samsung in the third quarter, is almost certain to regain the top spot in the fourth quarter with all-time high 37.04 million iPhone sales.
Samsung did not provide its own sales volume data for the fourth quarter but said shipments rose by around 30 percent from the previous quarter. Analysts estimate Samsung's fourth-quarter shipments at 35-37 million.
Samsung only entered the smartphone market in earnest in 2010, some three years after Apple first introduced the iPhone with the touchscreen template.
Samsung may not have come up with the concept, but it has adopted Apple's breakthrough idea perhaps better than any other handset maker. It tries to offer the Apple experience at a better price with better functionality.
However it still lags far behind Apple in terms of profitability. Apple, which generates half of its revenue from the iPhone, boasts a 37.4 percent operating margin versus Samsung's 11 percent, while the former's $17.3 billion operating profit for the December quarter is almost four times what Samsung earned by selling phones, chips, flat screens and TVs.
Shares in Samsung, also the world's top maker of memory chips and TVs, have climbed 18 percent over the past three months and hit a life-time high of 1.125 million won this week, outperforming a 3 percent gain in the KOSPI over the same period. ($1 = 1121.9000 Korean won)
(Reporting by Miyoung Kim; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Jonathan Hopfner)