Samsung Beats Expectations But Stays In the Red, Debuts Milk Music in New Zealand

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Iggy Azalea performs onstage at the Milk Music Lounge featuring Iggy Azalea on March 18, 2015 in Austin, Texas.

Samsung's quarterly operating earnings fell 31 percent from a year earlier, but the drop wasn't as big as expected in a sign the smartphone and computer chip giant may be emerging from its profit slump.

The company on Tuesday estimated its January-March operating profit at 5.9 trillion won ($5.4 billion), exceeding the average 5.5 trillion won forecast in a FactSet survey of analysts.

Samsung did not give a breakdown of its financial performance but analysts said robust demand for its mobile chips and improvements in its smartphone business were behind the relative improvement. It will release its full quarterly results later this month.

The company's operating profit was an improvement from the previous two quarters when its mobile business, which accounts for two-thirds of Samsung's income, suffered from a sales slowdown. Samsung estimated that its sales fell 12 percent to 47 trillion won ($43 billion) during the first quarter.

Analysts believe the South Korean company's profits hit bottom during the third quarter.

They expect a recovery in Samsung's bottom line in the current quarter as the company is set to launch the latest version of its flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S6, on Friday.

In addition to the earnings, Samsung announced the launch of its Milk Music radio streaming service -- launched in the U.S. one year ago -- in New Zealand, a jump across the pond from Australia, where the service was also launched in mid-February.

Solid demand for semiconductor devices that are used as components for mobile gadgets will continue to help drive a recovery in Samsung's profits, according to analysts. (The company will be producing Apple's next-generation A9 chip.)

Samsung is the world's largest maker of memory chips. For the upcoming Galaxy S6 smartphone, the company is supplying its own mobile processor that works as the brain of the phone.

Samsung's share price was unchanged in Seoul trading.