Samsung Electronics Co. predicted on Thursday an operating profit of up to $3.44 billion for the fourth quarter of 2009 after racking up its first ever loss a year earlier.

The Suwon, South Korea-based corporation expects consolidated operating profit of between 3.5 trillion won and 3.9 trillion won ($3.44 billion) for the three months ended Dec. 31, according to a statement.

Samsung, the world’s largest manufacturer of computer memory chips and flat screen televisions, reported a consolidated operating loss of 740 billion won in the same period last year, according to a separate regulatory filing. That was its first ever loss on quarterly basis and came amid a breakdown in consumer demand amid the global economic slump.

Samsung provided no reasons for last quarter’s performance and planned to elaborate when it officially releases its earnings statement sometime at the end of this month, said spokeswoman Lee Soo—jeong.

The company, which is the world’s No. 2 maker of mobile phone handsets behind Finland’s Nokia Corp., began issuing earnings estimates in the second quarter of 2009, saying they would help minimize market speculation over its performance and increase corporate transparency.

The estimates include the performance of its overseas and domestic subsidiaries excluding financial business, Lee said.

The company’s highest quarterly operating profit so far was 4.23 trillion won in the third quarter of 2009, so while the estimated fourth quarter figure would mark a return to profit from the year before it would be weaker than the previous three months.

Samsung estimated consolidated sales of between 38 trillion won and 40 trillion won for the fourth quarter. That compares with sales of 33 trillion won a year earlier.

Thursday’s announcement did not include estimates for its earnings on a parent basis, which include net profit. Samsung recorded its first ever quarterly net loss in the fourth quarter of 2008, losing 20 billion won.

Shares in Samsung, which released the estimates before the stock market opened, fell 1.9 percent to 825,000 won in late morning trading.

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