Samsung Electronics on Friday estimated its first-quarter operating profit reached the highest level in three and a half years on the back of solid component sales, just as its de facto leader Lee Jae-yong is set to make his first court appearance in connection with a sweeping corruption scandal.

Booming sales of memory chips and flat panel displays have helped the South Korean technology giant stage a strong comeback after the costly safety debacle of the fire-prone Galaxy Note 7 smartphone last year.

Operating profit for the first three months of this year was estimated at Won9.9tn, up 48 per cent per cent from Won6.68tn a year earlier. This was higher than the Won9.4tn average of a Thomson Reuters poll. Sales were estimated to have increased 0.4 per cent from Won49.78tn to Won50tn.

Mr Lee, Samsung’s heir apparent, has denied any wrongdoing as he stands trial for bribery, embezzlement and other financial offences. He is the highest-profile businessman engulfed by the bribery and influence-peddling scandal that has toppled former South Korean president Park Geun-hye.

Despite Mr Lee’s absence, Samsung’s shares are trading at near record highs. The shares have gained nearly 17 per cent year to date after surging 43 per cent last year.

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