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Is Qualcomm Inc. Stock a Buy?

By Tim Brugger - Oct 17, 2017 at 7:45AM

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The beleaguered chip leader has been beaten down this year, but does that make it a great value or a stock to avoid?

It's been hard to miss the news regarding Qualcomm's (QCOM -1.38%) legal "situations," even if someone wanted to. Qualcomm shareholders have certainly felt the impact of the multiple courtroom wranglings that have knocked the stock down 17% this year. Things could be worse, however, considering it's up 7% over the past month.

Uncertainty is often a stock's worst nightmare, and that has definitely been the case with Qualcomm. That said, for long-term investors in search of value, the questions swirling around Qualcomm could be an outstanding opportunity. Is its stock a buy, or should investors turn and run for the hills? The answer may surprise you.

Close-up picture of a judge's gavel on a desk with a decorative counter weight in the background.

Image source: Getty Images.

Courtroom drama

The nearly yearlong string of lawsuits from multiple sources alleges Qualcomm's highly profitable licensing fees are not only anti-competitive but in conjunction with what it charges to buy the chips, it's also unlawful.

Qualcomm has already erased two of its outstanding lawsuits. It wrote a $940 million check to BlackBerry and paid a South Korean regulatory agency $927 million to settle those disputes, resulting in a meager $100 million in operating cash flow last quarter compared to $1.8 billion a year ago.

The company may even face a couple more one-time hits to operating cash flow depending on how its complaints from longtime smartphone customer Apple and the Federal Trade Commission pan out.

The feud with Apple played a significant role in Qualcomm's fiscal third quarter's 11% revenue decline to $5.4 billion. The iPhone maker opted to not pay its suppliers, who in turn didn't pay Qualcomm. The squabble with Apple was why in late April Qualcomm revised its revenue guidance down $500 million. However, the $5.4 billion in sales was on the high end of a forecast that called for sales between $4.8 billion to $5.6 billion.

If history is any indication, Qualcomm may walk away from its legal troubles better than ever. In early 2015, it paid China a $975 million fine to settle a similar dispute and was forced to charge lower licensing fees, yet now it counts that country as a key source of revenue growth.

Are you with us or against us?

Some Qualcomm bears point to the pending NXP Semiconductor (NXPI -1.84%) acquisition as another potential thorn in its side. Bringing NXP and its Internet of Things (IoT) suite of solutions into the fold would be beneficial to be sure, but with yet another extension to its offer recently announced by Qualcomm, and even fewer shares tendered to date -- just 3.2% -- it may not happen.

Thing is, Qualcomm is already delving into the fast-growing IoT market with both its Snapdragon chips and a comprehensive platform, which includes both artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities and data security solutions. If the NXP acquisition officially comes off the table, it's not as if Qualcomm won't participate in the opportunities presented by IoT, AI, and security.

In addition to its dominant position in smartphones, Qualcomm has also become a player in another market expected to explode: Immersive virtual reality (VR).

Now for the best part(s)

While Qualcomm gets its legal house in order, shareholders will enjoy a 4.2% yield, one of the highest in its peer group at more than double the 2% dividend average. Another upside to Qualcomm, and one that should have value investors salivating is thanks to the recent bearishness its stock is valued at a mere 13 times future earnings.

Because of its bargain-basement stock price, long-term investors have little downside risk since the naysayers have already cut and run. It will get its legal troubles sorted out -- with or without NXP. With its minimal risk, outstanding upside, and forays into rapidly growing markets, there are reasons why Qualcomm stock is a strong buy.

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Stocks Mentioned

QUALCOMM Incorporated Stock Quote
QUALCOMM Incorporated
$128.43 (-1.38%) $-1.80
NXP Semiconductors N.V. Stock Quote
NXP Semiconductors N.V.
$147.26 (-1.84%) $-2.76

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