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Samsung Electronics' profits leaped in the fourth quarter despite the humiliating Galaxy Note 7 recall that hammered the reputation of the world's largest smartphone maker.

The South Korean tech giant took another blow when prosecutors began investigating its involvement in a corruption scandal, which has seen the country's president impeached, and sought the arrest of the firm's de facto leader Lee Jae-Yong.

In a statement, the group's flagship subsidiary Samsung Electronics said it posted operating profits of 9.22 trillion won (US$7.9 billion) during the October to December period, up 50.2 percent year-on-year. Net profits for the quarter were 7.09 trillion won, up 120 percent. Earnings were "driven by the components businesses, mainly the memory business and the display panel segment," it said with the stronger US dollar also boosting profits.

Analysts say memory chip prices have been driven up by stronger demand as Chinese smartphone makers release devices with high resolution cameras and bigger storage in a bid to catch up with Samsung and Apple. As the market leader in multiple segments, Samsung's own chip division "is the biggest benefactor", said Tom Kang, research director at Counterpoint Technology.

Samsung said it expected "huge growth" in the sector, and looking forward to 2017, Greg Roh, an analyst at HMC Investment Securities, told AFP: "We are expecting Samsung to post record-high profits this year on the back of rising chip prices."

For the full year 2016, the firm said in a statement: "Samsung achieved solid results despite the Note 7 discontinuation in the second half" -- the only reference to the debacle that saw the company withdraw its much-publicized device, originally intended to compete with Apple's iPhone.

Samsung was forced to discontinue the Galaxy Note 7 in October after a chaotic recall that saw replacement devices also catching fire. In total 3.1 million smartphones were recalled as authorities in the US and elsewhere banned them from use on planes and even from being placed in checked luggage.

On the other side, Samsung said in a statement it will buy back 9.3 trillion won worth of its own shares. Despite the solid figures, Samsung shares fell 0.11 percent in late morning trading to 1.9 million won, after rising initially. Full-year revenues for 2016 were almost flat at 201.9 trillion won, up 0.6 percent, but net profits rose 19 percent to 22.7 trillion won, Samsung said.

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