AI frenzy expected to have boosted Samsung Q2 profit 13-fold

Media tour to Samsung Electronic' HQ in Suwon

By Joyce Lee

SEOUL (Reuters) - Samsung Electronics is expected to post a 13-fold increase in second-quarter profit from a year earlier as demand for artificial intelligence technology fuels a rebound in memory chip prices.

Operating profit for the world's biggest maker of memory chips, smartphones and TVs likely rose to 8.8 trillion won ($6.34 billion) in the quarter ended June 30, according to the average of an LSEG SmartEstimate from 27 analysts, weighted toward those who are more consistently accurate.

That amount would be Samsung's highest profit since the third quarter of 2022. It compares with an operating profit of 670 billion won in second quarter of last year.

Performance at the tech giant's key semiconductor division likely continued to improve its second consecutive quarterly profit, as memory chip prices keep rising from a mid-2022 to end-2023 trough that was caused by weak post-pandemic demand for gadgets that use the chips.

Explosive demand for high-end DRAM chips such as high bandwidth memory (HBM) chips used in AI chipsets, as well as chips used in data centre servers and gadgets that run AI services are underpinning a broad recovery in the chip industry, analysts said.

During the second quarter, memory chip prices jumped by about 13% to 18% versus the previous quarter for DRAM chips used in tech devices and 15% to 20% for NAND Flash chips used for data storage, according to data provider TrendForce.

Estimated Q2 operating profit at Samsung's chip division was 4.6 trillion won according to an average of 10 analysts' forecasts. This compares to a loss of 4.36 trillion won for the same period last year.

Its mobile business likely saw its Q2 operating profit shrink versus last year despite shipping a similar number of smartphones, analysts said, due to steeper parts' costs and higher marketing and development costs for AI services.

The mobile business likely reported an operating profit of around 2.2 trillion won, according to an average of forecasts from 10 analysts, down from a 3.04 trillion won profit a year ago.

Samsung is expected to compete with rival Apple at the top end of the market when it launches its latest flagship foldable phones and mobile accessories, including a new ring for health monitoring, on July 10 in Paris.

($1 = 1,387.4200 won)

(Reporting by Joyce Lee; editing by Miral Fahmy)