What: Shares of QUALCOMM (NASDAQ:QCOM) fell more than 15% on Thursday, despite posting a downright impressive fourth-quarter report Wednesday night. Share prices actually rose as much as 1% when the results were released, only to reverse course almost immediately as investors noticed that the company no longer offers forward guidance figures.
So what: Qualcomm's sales fell 8% year over year to land at $5.5 billion. On the bottom line, adjusted earnings took a 28% haircut, ending up at $0.91 per diluted share.
Hardly a Herculean effort on its own, but Wall Street had been expecting much worse. Analysts would have settled for earnings of $0.86 per share on sales near $5.2 billion.
Now what: But again, the semiconductor designer also announced the end of its annual revenue and earnings guidance policy, to be replaced by quarter-by-quarter forward glances at a new set of key metrics. To help investors and analysts get used to the policy change, Qualcomm offered one last look at next-quarter targets. And it was not good news.
Management sees first-quarter sales falling by roughly 20% year over year to $5.6 billion, well below the current $5.8 billion analyst view. Adjusted earnings should slump roughly 35% lower, landing near $0.85 per share. Again, analysts expected much more, currently setting their sights at $1.08 per share.
It's easy to forget about a surprisingly good quarter already in the books when the near-term future looks shockingly bleak. The end of longer-term guidance figures might be the scariest bit of all, since it doesn't exactly paint a picture of a management team that's comfortable with its own forecasting methods.
Moreover, the coming year looks to be a doozy.
"[We] are on track to deliver on our fiscal 2016 cost reduction targets and expect to exit fiscal 2016 on an improving financial trajectory," said Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf in a press statement. But until the end of the next fiscal year, meaning an excruciating four quarters ahead, investors should apparently not expect that financial trajectory to point in any nice directions.
Uncertainty hurts on Wall Street.
If there's a silver lining on Qualcomm's difficult Thursday, the lower share prices also lifted the effective dividend yield to 3.1% and the stock now trades for less than 14 times trailing earnings. Fellow chip titan Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) trades at 15 times trailing earnings with a slimmer 2..8% yield, and is often seen as a dividend-heavy value play. If Qualcomm can pull through the coming year without falling apart at its seams, investors taking a position today could be handsomely rewarded.
But that's starting to look like a mighty big "if," right there.