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Image source: NXP.

Netherlands-based chip maker NXP Semiconductors (NASDAQ:NXPI) will report third-quarter results after the market close on Wednesday, Oct. 28. Management will then follow up on the report in a conference call with analysts at 8:00 a.m. Eastern the next morning, also available to investors as a webcast.

I could keep you up all night with interesting details to watch for in NXP's report. But some of these developments will matter more than others. Here are the three most important highlights you should look out for in NXP's third-quarter results.

The Apple angle
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is one of NXP's largest customers, though the company won't break out exactly how big an impact Apple's orders are making on NXP's top line.

You might know NXP primarily for its near field communications chips. This technology forms the starting point for newfangled point-of-sale payment services such as Apple Pay and Android Pay. As such, NXP is a crucial partner in Apple's growth strategy. Moreover, NXP also provides one of the many display controller chips in recent iPhones and iPads, so the company is double-dipping into Apple's component costs per device.

So if Cupertino delivers another tub-thumping success story when it reports today, some of that goodness will spill over into NXP's results as well. And on the flip side, Apple's weakness would also weigh on its chip suppliers.

So these companies walk hand in hand to some degree. You can't analyze NXP properly without paying attention to that other earnings report in Cupertino.

Freescale
NXP is waist-deep into a $40 billion merger with fellow microcontroller specialist Freescale Semiconductor (NYSE:FSL). The transaction has received several important regulatory clearances but is still waiting for others, and the pending go-aheads include important decisions from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States and the Federal Trade Commission.

You should expect updates on the merger progress in this report, though most of that discussion might fall in the conference call. I should remind you that NXP shares jumped 17% the day after the Freescale merger announcement, indicating strong investor support for the business combination.

As of three weeks ago, NXP's management still expected the regulatory clearances to roll in on schedule. If that's still the case, the deal should close before the end of the year.

Gross margins
Finally, NXP's gross margins have been on a roll in recent quarters, unlocking a strong surge in the company's free cash flows:

NXPI Gross Profit Margin (TTM) Chart

NXPI Gross Profit Margin (TTM) data by YCharts

For the third quarter, management expects to deliver gross margins of roughly 48.8%. That's a slight bump from the second quarter, when this important margin stood at 48.7%. In the third quarter of 2014, gross margins sat all the way back at 47.9%.

NXP investors should look for this show of pricing power to continue, including another uptick in the provided fourth-quarter guidance. All of this will change if or when Freescale enters the picture, but NXP has a streak to defend at the moment.

Anders Bylund has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple and NXP Semiconductors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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