Earlier this week, mobile chip giant Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) hosted its annual Analyst Day. As a longtime Qualcomm shareholder, I've been frustrated with the stock's performance in recent years. Qualcomm has severely underperformed the market over the past one, two, and five years, despite the fact that it has an incredible business that is the foundation for the mobile revolution.
With that in mind, I'm particularly interested in any guidance the company can give on its future prospects. Here are the two most important takeaways from the meeting.
China is still a challenge, which will lead to lower revenue growth
Over the past five years, Qualcomm has more than doubled its revenue, from $10.4 billion 2009 to nearly $26.5 billion over the past four quarters. Licensing activity has soared alongside mobile chip sales. That translates into a compound annual growth rate, or CAGR, of around 20.6%.
But over the next five years, the company sees its revenue CAGR slowing to a range of 8% to 10%. The silver lining is that earnings are expected to grow faster than revenue. A slowing CAGR is somewhat natural when we're talking about a larger revenue base to grow off, but there are some fundamental challenges the company is facing in the world's largest smartphone market.
Qualcomm believes many Chinese smartphone vendors are under-reporting unit shipments, effectively shortchanging the company's QTL licensing business in royalties. At the same time, Qualcomm is facing an antitrust probe in the Middle Kingdom. Smartphone prices are also on the decline as low-cost devices are driving the market's growth, which has negative implications on Qualcomm's royalty take.
The QCT chip business also faces headwinds in China, as Qualcomm is experiencing intensifying competition from local chip makers. Fiscal 2014 was very strong for Qualcomm in China since the country's transition to 4G LTE lined up nicely with Qualcomm's product pipeline, but fiscal 2015 will be a little tougher in terms of product mix.
Qualcomm will challenge Intel in servers
ARM Holdings has been talking about getting its chip designs into servers for years, a space currently dominated by x86 chip makers like Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and Advanced Micro Devices (NASDAQ:AMD). Hewlett-Packard recently launched its Moonshot server offerings equipped with 64-bit ARM chips, promising incredible power savings in the process.
Well, Qualcomm is easily the largest and most sophisticated ARM chip vendor in the world, excluding integrated players like Apple and Samsung, who exclusively or predominantly make ARM chips for their own devices. It's about time for the company to jump in, and that's precisely what it plans on doing.
Qualcomm says it's been quietly working on a server offering for quite some time. Qualcomm has helped drive the mobile revolution on the device level, and it's a huge opportunity to help drive it further from inside the data center. The company can put a lot of pricing pressure on Intel, but even with that pressure, Qualcomm estimates the total addressable market at $15 billion in 2020.
To be clear, it's going to be several years until Qualcomm's server ambitions can become meaningful in terms of revenue. Right now, the company is "actively engaged with customers on server devices," but that's a very preliminary stage, and Qualcomm declined to provide specifics on timing. Still, servers are a massive opportunity for the biggest ARM chip maker -- one well worth pursuing.
Evan Niu, CFA, owns shares of Apple and Qualcomm. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Intel. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Intel, and Qualcomm. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.