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Samsung expects first-quarter profits of $7.7B, up 53 percent

The guidance is better than many analysts expected but breaks the company's string of five consecutive quarters of record profits.

The Samsung Galaxy S3.

Samsung Electronics expects to record an operating profit of 8.7 trillion won ($7.7 billion) for the first quarter of 2013, a 53 percent increase over the year-ago period.

The guidance, released today by the South Korean electronics giant ahead of full earnings later this month, is better than many analysts had forecast but a slight decline over the fourth quarter of 2012, when the company posted a record $8.3 billion in operating profit. The guidance means the company expects to break its string of five consecutive quarters of record profits.

Though strong sales of the Galaxy S and Note have fueled Samsung record earnings growth in past quarters, the first quarter was expected to be a seasonal speed bump before the Galaxy S4 goes on sale later this quarter. Pre-orders will begin April 16, but the company hasn't indicated when it plans to launch the new handset, which is expected to be a monster seller.

Despite that, analysts at Hong Kong-based Counterpoint Research estimates Samsung sold about 25 million smartphones each month of 2013 for a total exceeding 70 million in the first quarter, an increase from the 63 million the company sold in the fourth quarter of 2012.

The company will announce full quarterly results April 26, three days after handset rival Apple reports its first-quarter financial results.