STOCKHOLM ( TheStreet) -- Sony Ericsson, the mobile phone maker, said pretax earnings in the fourth quarter were €39 million ($52.5 million), higher than a year earlier but lower sequentially because of decreased sales.

Sales in the quarter fell to €1.53 billion from €1.75 billion a year earlier and €1.6 billion sequentially.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected Sony Ericsson, a joint venture of Sweden's Ericsson ( ERIC) and Japan's Sony ( SNE), to post pretax profit of €79.7 million euros on sales of €1.82 billion.

In the year-earlier quarter, Sony Ericsson posted a loss of €40 million. In the latest third quarter, the company earned €66 million.

Shipments in the quarter fell to 11.2 million from 14.6 million a year earlier as the company said it focused on higher-end smartphones. Shipments rose 8% sequentially but were "somewhat constrained by a lack of new product launches during the quarter," the company said in a statement Thursday.

Sony Ericsson said it forecasts "modest growth in units in the global handset market for 2011. "

-- Written by Joseph Woelfel

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