Samsung Electronics has said it expects to report a big jump in profits for the final three months of last year, thanks largely to record smartphone sales.

The South Korean firm said it expects operating profits for the period to be 5.2tn won ($4.5bn; Ł2.9bn), 73% higher than a year a earlier.

Samsung overtook Apple as the world's biggest-selling smartphone maker in the second half of last year.

The firms have been locked in a number of patent battles in recent months.

Analysts said Samsung's profits were likely to grow again this year.

"Samsung is likely to continue record-breaking earnings this year as earnings from flat screens and memory chips will improve, making up for any potential slowdown in handset growth rates," said Lee Seung-woo at Shinyoung Securities.

"I'd expect profits to grow by another 5tn won this year."

The company is due to publish its official results for the fourth quarter of 2011 later this month.