HONG KONG (Reuters) - Chinese telecoms equipment group ZTE Corp said on Wednesday it expected to post a loss in 2016, hit by fines it is paying to settle a U.S. sanctions case.

It estimated a preliminary full-year loss of 2.36 billion yuan ($342 million) for 2016 compared with a profit of 3.21 billion yuan in the previous year.

But it also said it expects first-quarter profit could rise more than 20 percent as revenue from carriers' networks and consumer business has increased.

Preliminary net profit for the January-March quarter is to set to come in between 1.15 billion yuan and 1.25 billion yuan ($167 million-$181 million), a rise of 21 percent to 32 percent against the same period a year earlier.

The company has agreed to pay $892 million and plead guilty to criminal charges for violating U.S. laws that restrict the sale of American-made technology to Iran and North Korea.

(Reporting by Donny Kwok; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)