Another former high-flying stock has reached a 52-week low. With shares of Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) down about 35% over the past year, what's a Fool to make of recent results and the company's outlook?

A number of near-term concerns have contributed to a weak share price for the wireless-communications giant. Besides the overall market malaise that's hitting most stocks, there was a recent adverse patent ruling in a dispute with Broadcom (NASDAQ:BRCM) and a chance that a license agreement with Nokia (NYSE:NOK) for CDMA, Qualcomm's powerful communication technology, could expire next year. The loss of Nokia would be a big negative but is not certain at this point, although negotiations are becoming contentious. Finally, management offered forward guidance that analysts found disappointing.

The results
Third-quarter results were actually quite strong. Briefly, total sales grew 44% quarter over quarter, while diluted earnings were up 12%. However, management predicted a more difficult environment later this year, partially because of growth in emerging markets at lower profit margins.

Overall, Qualcomm makes its money from the sale and licensing of its CDMA chips and related technology and services. As a result, it throws off an amazing amount of cash flow and has been able to leverage annual 12% sales expansion into earnings growth of about 25% per year over the past five years. Net margins are nearly double the market average at almost 36%, and returns on capital are also very high -- near 20%.

The key issue with any impressive company is the height of its multiple, which plays a huge part in determining whether making an investment will prove worthwhile. And Qualcomm, at about 26 times trailing earnings and 20 times forward earnings (for the year ending September 2007), is a bit pricey. Free cash flow is in line with net income, which is comforting, but the company will have to continue growing robustly to justify buying its stock.

For as long as I can remember, concerns have persisted that semiconductor competitors such as Texas Instruments (NYSE:TXN), STMicroelectronics (NYSE:STM), or Freescale (NYSE:FSL) will steal market share from Qualcomm, or that major mobile-phone providers including SprintNextel (NYSE:S) will move to embrace different or newer technologies. The positives for Qualcomm are that it is extremely profitable and that plenty of growth opportunities appear to remain, especially in emerging markets.

So far, the company has successfully fended off most threats to its core business, so I have no reason to believe its track record of expansion will abruptly come to an end. There are a number of near-term concerns that may cause me to hold off on buying the shares, but for now I'll hang on to the ones I have.

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Fool contributor Ryan Fuhrmann is long shares of Qualcomm and Nokia but has no financial interest in any other company mentioned. Feel free to email him with feedback or to further discuss any companies mentioned here. The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.