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At The Motley Fool, we poke plenty of fun at Wall Street analysts and their endless cycle of upgrades, downgrades, and "initiating coverage at neutral." Today, we'll show you whether those bigwigs actually know what they're talking about. To help, we've enlisted Motley Fool CAPS to track the long-term performance of Wall Street's best and worst.
And there was much rejoicing
2011 was a rough year for mobile communications chipmaker Skyworks Solutions (Nasdaq: SWKS ) . A key supplier to Apple's iPhone, Skyworks shares hit a high near $37 early in the year, only to lose nearly two-thirds of their value as 2011 drew to a close -- but, my, how times change. Since bottoming out near $14 in December, Skyworks has soared ever skyward, recently topping $25 in intraday trading yesterday on the back of an upgrade from Charter Equity.
What's changed? Charter explains: "We've been bearish on SWKS for most of the last 12 months primarily on concerns that a large loss of content in the iPhone 4S would undercut top-line growth." But recently Charter has learned that Skyworks won back lost business in Apple's upcoming iPhone 5. With its components now occupying the iPhone's "LTE slots" and probably several slots for power amplification, the analyst sees Skyworks more than doubling the amount of revenue it earns from each iPhone Apple sells.
Charter warns that the gains in revenue won't appear until results are released for the December 2012 quarter, but predicts analyst estimates should begin rising months before the news breaks. The only way to beat the rush into the stock, therefore, is to buy way before the news is made public. As in... now. Is Charter right?
Wall Street zigs, Main Street zags
Not everyone thinks so. In fact, despite Charter upgrading shares of Skyworks to "buy" yesterday, investors mainly shrugged, sending Skyworks down for a small loss on a mostly green day for the Dow. And yet, Charter's far from the only analyst on Wall Street that's getting bullish on Skyworks.
Peer Caris & Co., for example, released a note yesterday predicting that next week's "Mobile World Congress" in Barcelona will show that Skyworks has made inroads in the market for LTE (aka "4G") baseband chips that go into smartphones like the iPhone. Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM ) and China's RDA Microelectronics (Nasdaq: RDA ) are also likely to pick up share, while the note suggests that Broadcom (Nasdaq: BRCM ) and Marvell (Nasdaq: MRVL ) should be the big winners in low-end 3G telephony.
And yet, this begs the question: With so many "winners" expected to be revealed in Barcelona, what's so special about Skyworks? What makes this company particularly worth of buying?
Well, not to be crass or anything, but the real reason to buy Skyworks is the price. In a word, Skyworks is "cheap."
The stock sells for 21 times earnings, versus 24 times earnings at Qualcomm. Skyworks also generates more free cash flow than it reports as net income, with the result that its price-to-free cash flow works out to a very reasonable 15.4 ratio. And when you back out the cash Skyworks already has in the bank, its enterprise value-to-free cash flow is even cheaper.
Would it have been better to buy Skyworks two months ago, at a price less than half what it fetches today? Indubitably. But Charter is right -- at today's prices, and with next week's prospects in Barcelona, there's still time to buy this stock before it totally runs away from us. The stock may not be as cheap as it once was, but Skyworks is still a "buy."