NXP Semiconductors (Nasdaq: NXPI ) investors have seen better days. The stock is down more than 5% since Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) introduced a new iPhone 5 that failed to include even a speck of near-field communications technology. NXP is one of the world's leading suppliers of NFC chips.
That was five weeks ago. More recently, shares of NXP have traded lower on rumors that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) planned on replacing NXP's reference designs with Broadcom's (Nasdaq: BRCM ) approach in the next version of the Android operating system.
Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS ) has since gone on to issue a report suggesting that, even if Broadcom were to take its place, there's much more to NXP than the promise of using NFC to transform a smartphone into a digital wallet. They're right.
NXP's High Performance Mixed Signal segment accounted for 69% of revenue in 2011, the last year for which such data was available. Then, within this same segment, NXP sells far more than just mobile chips. From the company's most recent annual 20-F annual filing: "Our HPMS business segment delivers High Performance Mixed Signal solutions to our customers to satisfy their system and sub-systems needs across eight application areas: automotive, identification, mobile, consumer, computing, wireless infrastructure, lighting and industrial." (Emphasis added.)
Admittedly, HPMS hasn't always been a growth business for NXP. Segment revenue soared 41% in 2010 after falling $500 million years before. Selling into the mobile segment was to add some stability to an otherwise volatile business. Apple isn't likely to be of assistance. Google may not either.
And you know what? That's probably OK. Here's a partial list of NFC projects that are either completed or in development, provided courtesy of the trade magazine NFC World:
- French telecom carrier Orange is using NFC-enabled stickers and key rings to help prepaid customers refill their accounts instantly.
- Italy's postal service plans to begin rolling out an NFC-enabled payments system in Milan in December. Future plans call for using NFC for identity cards and drivers' licenses, among other things.
- Beginning next year, Dubai plans an NFC-enabled ticketing system for most of its public transportation network.
- And finally, Safeway (NYSE: SWY ) and Kraft Foods (Nasdaq: KRFT ) found that ads and coupons delivered to NFC-enabled phones were more 12 times more likely to elicit a response than comparable QR codes.
We don't know if NXP is involved in any of these projects. What matters is that NFC is being used for much more than enabling smartphone payments systems. And with a balance sheet that includes more than $3 billion in debt, NXP needs all the catalysts it can find.
While it's too early to tell whether NXP is leading a lasting touch technology revolution, there is no argument that Apple remains at the center of the greatest shift in computing history. Longtime shareholders have been handsomely rewarded with over 1,000% gains as a result. However, there is a debate raging as to whether Apple remains a buy.
The Motley Fool's senior technology analyst and managing bureau chief, Eric Bleeker, is prepared to fill you in on what opportunities are left for Apple (and more importantly, your portfolio) going forward. To get instant access to his latest premium research, simply click here now.