Global smartphone leader Samsung Electronics today confirmed expectations for its first annual profit decline since 2011, although a pickup in the fourth quarter hinted that earnings may have stabilised in the short term. 

The South Korean tech giant lost market share for three consecutive quarters up to July-September.

Aanalysts say the trend likely continued in the three months from October to December due to competition from Apple's new iPhones and cheaper Chinese rivals like Xiaomi. 

But expectations of healthy memory chip demand and improvements in the mobile business on the back of new mid-to-low tier smartphones are buoying hopes that Samsung has at last staunched the bleeding in quarterly earnings. 

Samsung said its fourth-quarter operating profit is likely to be 5.2 trillion won ($4.74 billion), beating forecasts of 5 trillion won from a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S survey of 44 analysts. 

The outlook means Samsung's 2014 profit will probably be 25 trillion won, the weakest in three years.

However, it marks a rebound from the third-quarter's 4.1 trillion won profit which was the firm's lowest quarterly result in more than three years. 

The company is expected to release its annual results around the end of January. 

Samsung did not provide a breakdown of its earnings figures in today's outlook, but a person with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters that components sales picked up across the board, with healthy demand for memory chips and higher liquid crystal display panel prices. 

The mobile division's contribution to overall profits has slipped from about 68% at its peak in 2013 to about 44% in the third quarter, as its high-end offerings lost out to Apple's iPhones. 

Meanwhile buyers in booming emerging markets like China have opted for cheaper devices rather than Samsung's flagship Galaxy series. 

The mobile division's fourth-quarter profit improved slightly from the previous quarter due to a pickup in sales of premium products like the Galaxy Note 4 and lower marketing costs, the person with knowledge of the matter said. 

But overall smartphone shipments fell, the person added. 

Analysts say the company's new focus on mid-to-low tier smartphones will squeeze margins and cap profits, offsetting the benefits of the expected increase in sales. 

Samsung is talking up its internet of things-related businesses such as the smart home as the next big thing, while launching new quantum dot televisions and metal-body smartphones to boost earnings. 

But investors do not expect a profit surge from the company in the near term.