Samsung has announced that its fourth-quarter operating income dropped more than one-third compared to the year ago quarter. The announcement was made based on preliminary figures -- the company will release its full financial results later this month.

The South Korean company said it expects its operating profit for the three months that ended in December to be 5.2 trillion won ($4.7 billion), down 37 percent year-over-year, but still higher than the analysts' expectation of 4.8 trillion won.

While the smartphone business, which contributed nearly two-thirds of the company's profit in the past couple of years, continued to struggle, analysts say the better-than-expected earnings were a result of stronger performance by the company's semiconductor division, which is responsible for developing memory chips, mobile processors, and solid state drives.

On the whole, Samsung's 2014 operating profit is expected to be around 24.9 trillion won ($22.6 billion), down 32 percent from 2013. The company also expects its fourth quarter sales to be 52 trillion won, a drop of 12 percent year-on-year, but largely in line with what analysts expected.

The news comes just over a couple of months after Samsung reported disappointing third quarter results, with operating profit falling to its lowest level in more than three years. That was followed by reports suggesting that the company co-chief executive and mobile head J.K. Shin could be removed from his current role at the helm of the company's mobile business. However, he survived the management shuffle.