By Se Young Lee
SEOUL (Reuters) - Tech giant Samsung Electronics Co Ltd <005930.KS> on Thursday unveiled a 11.3 trillion won ($9.9 billion) share buyback after reporting its first on-year profit growth in two years thanks to strong component sales, pushing its shares sharply higher.
Samsung said it would cancel all shares purchased through the buyback, its biggest to date, and planned to give shareholders 30 percent to 50 percent of its free cash flow over the next three years, primarily through dividends.
The buyback, to be carried out in phases over a year, will be welcome news for those investors who have been clamoring for bigger payouts from the world's top smartphone maker, which has lost market share to rivals such as Apple Inc <AAPL.O> and Huawei Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL].
"Samsung's core smartphone business is struggling, which means the shares would likely fall. The buyback helps defend the stock price," said Chung Sun-sup, head of corporate analysis firm Chaebul.com.
Cancelling the purchased shares would also help the Lee family, founders of Samsung Group [SAGR.UL], boost their control of the conglomerate's crown jewel.
Samsung's shares touched a near six-month high and were up 2.2 percent as of 0340 GMT, compared with a 0.3 percent decline for the broader market <.KS11>.
CHIP PROFIT RECORD
The maker of Galaxy-series handsets and tablets said third-quarter operating profit jumped 82 percent to 7.4 trillion won ($6.5 billion), in line with its guidance. Revenue rose 8.9 percent from a year earlier to 51.7 trillion won.
Samsung warned that earnings would fall sequentially in the fourth quarter as currency conditions - which added 800 billion won to profit in the third quarter - became less favorable.
The mobile division posted its first on-year profit growth in two years, climbing 37 percent to 2.40 trillion won, thanks to strong sales of the Galaxy Note 5 as well as new lower-end products.
The firm said it aimed to keep fourth-quarter mobile profits at a similar level, although the outlook beyond that was unclear as it expected the global smartphone market to slow in 2016.
The chip division was the company's top earner for the fifth-straight quarter, with a record 3.66 trillion won profit thanks in part to demand from smartphone makers.
The results will raise hopes that Samsung's profit recovery is on track, even though investors are skeptical about its ability to return to the record earnings it posted in 2013 on the back of its smartphone business.
Despite a major overhaul of its product lineup, Samsung's smartphone shipments will shrink for the first time in 2015 due to competition from Apple in the high-end market and Chinese rivals in the low end, researcher TrendForce says.
(Reporting by Se Young Lee; Additional reporting by Sohee Kim; Editing by Stephen Coates)