Samsung Electronics said today its first-quarter operating profit likely managed to rise slightly from a slump a year earlier.

This comes as its solid chip sales helped cushion the blow from the coronavirus pandemic on smartphones and TVs. 

The global leader in semiconductors is benefiting from higher demand for chips from laptop makers and data centres amid the coronavirus-driven shift to working from home, despite its mobile and consumer electronics businesses suffering. 

Samsung said its operating profit was expected to be 6.4 trillion won ($5.2 billion) in the quarter ended March.

This compares with 6.2 trillion won a year ago and the 6.2 trillion won estimate from analysts according to Refinitiv SmartEstimate. 

Revenue is set to rise by 5% to 55 trillion won from a year ago, in line with the 55.6 trillion won estimate.  

The maker of smartphones, TVs, appliances, memory chips and displays is the first global tech company to report its January to March quarter earnings estimates. 

Samsung Electronics said last month the coronavirus would hurt sales of smartphones - which accounted for about 47% of its revenue last year - and consumer electronics in 2020, while demand from data centres would fuel a recovery in memory chip markets. 

Analysts said that even though Samsung's mobile business was hit by the coronavirus outbreak this quarter, it will likely face bigger challenges in the second quarter - now that the US and Europe have become the hardest-hit countries. 

When the coronavirus outbreak started in China last year, Samsung's strategy of spreading its production base to countries including Vietnam and India seemed to pay off as supply disruptions in China hit rivals such as Apple. 

But as the virus spread across the globe, Samsung too has had to close factories and retail stores in Europe, India and the US. 

NH Investment & Securities said it expected sales of Samsung's premium Galaxy 20 smartphone to reach 20 million units this year, far short of the 32 million it had forecast earlier. 

LG Electronic, Samsung's rival in TVs, phones and appliances, meanwhile said its first-quarter operating profit likely rose 21% to 1 trillion won. Analysts expect the coronavirus to affect LG this quarter.

Samsung Electronics did not provide a breakdown of earnings for each division in its guidance released today. 

Analysts say the company's memory chip business, which generated more than 50% of its operating profit in 2019, would likely report better-than-expected results in the first half of this year. 

Memory chip prices are rising as work-from-home requirements boost demand from the data centres that support internet services such as streaming and cloud computing, analysts have said. 

Prices for DRAM memory chips are up more than 3.5% since January, according to industry data.