Samsung Electronics, the world's biggest smartphone and memory chip maker, on Thursday reported a 26-percent rise in fourth-quarter net profits year-on-year, with pandemic-driven working from home boosting demand for devices powered by its chips.

The firm said profits in October to December rose 26.4 percent year-on-year to 6.61 trillion won ($5.97 billion).

Operating profit rose 26.4 percent to 9.05 trillion won, while sales were also up 2.8 percent at 61.55 trillion won.

The coronavirus has wreaked havoc with the world economy, with intensive lockdowns and travel bans imposed around the globe for many months.

But the pandemic -- which has killed more than two million people worldwide -- has also seen many tech companies boom, including Samsung.

The pandemic has seen many tech companies boom, including Samsung
The pandemic has seen many tech companies boom, including Samsung AFP / Jung Yeon-je

Samsung Electronics is crucial to the South's economic health -- its overall turnover is equivalent to a fifth of the national gross domestic product.

It is the flagship subsidiary of the giant Samsung group, by far the largest of the family-controlled conglomerates known as chaebols that dominate business in the world's 12th-largest economy.

"With consumers spending more time at home, it led the growth of premium appliances such as large TVs and fridges," said James Kang, senior research analyst at Euromonitor International.

The figures come just days after the firm's de facto leader Lee Jae-yong was sentenced to two and a half years in jail in a retrial over a sprawling corruption scandal brought down former president Park Geun-hye.

That ruling cast further uncertainty over Samsung after the burial of late chairman Lee Kun-hee, who turned Samsung Electronics into a global powerhouse, in October.

For the full year, net profit jumped 21.5 percent to 26.41 trillion won, on sales of 236.81 trillion won, up 2.8 percent.