Samsung Electronics estimated its January-March operating profit at 2.9 trillion won ($2.7 billion), lower than the consensus forecast, in its first earnings update since the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan last month.

The South Korean firm is the first major global technology company to release quarterly earnings estimates after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan on March 11 raised uncertainty about the longer-term effects of the disaster on a broad range of manufacturers.

Disruptions to the global supply chain threaten to create bottlenecks in some key components for Japanese factories and analysts believe South Korean firms such as Samsung may benefit as customers look for new suppliers. The company also looks set to benefit from a recovery in the memory chip market.

With expectations for the second quarter to be much better than the first quarter, Samsung is likely to guide the market with a more conservative outlook, as an extended crisis in Japan could crimp parts supplies and affect overall IT demand, said Seo Won-seok, an analyst at NH Investment & Securities.

Samsung estimated its January-March operating profit at 2.9 trillion won, below the 3.2 trillion won consensus by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S, but in line with StarMine SmartEstimates, which places more weight on recent forecasts by top-rated analysts and expected a downside surprise of 10 percent to 2.9 trillion won.

That would be its lowest profit since the second quarter of 2009, and down 34 percent from a year ago and 4 percent from the preceding quarter.

Shares in Samsung, Asia's most valuable technology firm with a market value of around $142 billion, have fallen 9 percent from a record high hit in late January, lagging a 1 percent rise in the KOSPI during the same period.

(Reporting by Miyoung Kim; Editing by Vinu Pilakkott and Jonathan Hopfner)