What happened

Shares of smartphone and mobile chip giant Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) were up 23% in the last week, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence. The company easily surpassed Wall Street analyst expectations during its fiscal 2021 fourth quarter (the three months ended Sept. 26, 2021), posting revenue of $9.34 billion and adjusted earnings per share of $2.55 -- up a respective 12% and 76% year over year.

Someone laying on a bedroom floor and using a smartphone.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Qualcomm's largest segment by far is the sale of chips it designs for smartphones. With more 5G network-ready phone models becoming available and consumers paying up for these premium devices to take advantage of their mobile provider's new services, Qualcomm's flagship business is booming. Revenue derived from smartphones was $4.69 billion, up 56% in the last quarter and 61% during full-year fiscal 2021.  

But Qualcomm has been working hard in recent years to diversify itself away from just smartphone chips. Earlier in 2021, it bought small CPU (central processing unit) outfit NUVIA to increase its presence in the laptop, tablet, and other mobile device market. More recently, Qualcomm outbid auto supplier Magna (NYSE:MGA) for small vehicle technologist Veoneer (NYSE:VNE). Qualcomm is after Veoneer's software platform for connected and autonomous cars.

The financials help validate Qualcomm's recent moves. RF front-end (radio receiver chips for mobile devices), automotive, and Internet of Things (IoT) revenues were up 45%, 44%, and 66% respectively in the last quarter. Collectively, these segments still only make up about one-third of total revenue, but the company is nonetheless making fast progress on its goal to broaden the scope of its semiconductor designs.  

Now what

After the quarterly update, Qualcomm stock trades for just 21 times trailing 12-month free cash flow. After an epic fiscal 2021, the company will be lapping tough numbers as it starts its new year. Nevertheless, guidance for the next quarter implies year-over-year sales growth of 27% at the midpoint of expectations ($10.4 billion). Not at all a bad way to kick off 2022.

Qualcomm could face stiffer competition in the years ahead, though. For example, smartphone mega-company Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) appears to be designing some of its own mobile circuitry in-house now, which poses risk for Qualcomm if Apple decides to part ways with it down the road. But its move into autos, IoT, and other mobile devices could help the company front-run this problem if it comes up.

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