This Small Cap Won't Drown With a Giant Customer

It's always good to have a global market leader as your largest customer. But what happens when that prime-time client starts losing market share to a pack of hungry usurpers?

The answer: diversify.

That's what mobile chip designer RF Micro Devices (Nasdaq: RFMD  ) is doing at the moment. The market leader in question is Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) , which has tended to provide more than half of RF Micro's sales through the years. Now that Nokia's global dominance looks questionable in the long run, RF Micro is shifting its sales efforts to the very challengers who are chasing Nokia, such as Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) , Samsung, and Motorola (NYSE: MOT  ) . RF Micro chips are also part of complete handset platforms sold by Marvell Technology Group (Nasdaq: MRVL  ) , Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM  ) , Chinese chip designer Mediatek, and others.

In RF Micro's first quarter of fiscal 2011, sales rose to $274 million, up 29% year over year and 5% compared with the fourth quarter. The Nokia portion declined to a mere 44% from 59% in the year-ago quarter. That translates into $121 million this time versus $125 million last year, for those keeping score at home. Sales to everyone else skyrocketed to $153 million from about $87 million, a 76% boost. The diversification effort is clearly working.

Chief rival Skyworks Solutions (Nasdaq: SWKS  ) doesn't suffer from the massive-customer syndrome, relying fairly evenly on sales to Motorola, Samsung, and LG Electronics. On the other hand, I believe that RF Micro has been unfairly punished for its close ties to the struggling Nokia, losing 11% of its market value over the past year while Skyworks gained 56%. RF Micro is taking action against that specific risk factor and deserves a stronger valuation than it's getting.

So I'm heading over to Motley Fool CAPS to rate this stock to outperform right now, just to take advantage of an unfairly low valuation that should correct itself in due time. You're more than welcome to follow along if you wish.

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Fool contributor and all-star CAPS player Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Nokia is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.


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