Wireless technology and chip giant Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) seemingly can't catch a break, with shares plunging to new 52-week lows following its earnings results. The company's financial performance in its fiscal first quarter came in ahead of Street expectations, but the company's forward outlook proved to be disappointing.
The shares are now down nearly 13% year-to-date, slightly underperforming both the Nasdaq index as well as the iShares PHLX Semiconductor ETF (NASDAQ:SOXX) over that time period, and adding to the pain that shareholders have had to endure over the last year or so.
Although the company's near-term outlook proved disappointing, management did offer some interesting -- and potentially encouraging -- insight into the company's longer-term business prospects.
100 design wins for Snapdragon 820, revenue impact in second half of FY 2016
In a prior article, I made the (not-so-bold) claim that Qualcomm's previous-generation flagship smartphone processor, the Snapdragon 810, was the company's worst product in 2015. Although the chip still won the vast majority of flagship smartphone designs, it reportedly suffered from some issues with overheating.
More important to investors, though, is that it failed to win spots inside of the Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF) Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy Note 5 flagships, significantly affecting sales.
However, the Snapdragon 820 seems be faring much better, with management claiming that the chip has now racked up over 100 design wins. Management also expects that shipments of these processors will begin to have a material impact on the company's chip sales during the second half of its fiscal year 2016 (i.e., beginning in April).
Qualcomm chip business did quite well in FQ1, all things considered
According to Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf, the company's chip business (known as Qualcomm QCT) saw shipments "near the high end" of the company's expectations. Although Qualcomm reported weakness in "thin modem sales at a key customer," that weakness was apparently offset by strength in lower-end processors, "particularly in China."
Operating margin for this business came in at a reasonable 14% during the quarter. Although this isn't great (Qualcomm's longer-term target has historically been 20%-plus), it's reasonable given the ongoing weakness in the company's chip business.
That being said, although the company is still sticking to its claim that operating margin in this business will be at least 16% by its fiscal fourth quarter (thanks to cost-cutting and new product ramps), operating margins will dip into the "low- to mid-single digits" as a result of seasonally lower revenue and, as CFO George Davis described it, "absorption of [operating expenses]."
Betting big on RF
Qualcomm has been trying to capture more of the smartphone platform bill of materials by expanding its chip offerings to include RF components. To that end, the company announced prior to the earnings call that it had set up a joint venture with Japan's TDK Corporation to "enable delivery of RF front-end modules and RF filters into fully integrated systems" aimed at mobile devices and other (think Internet of Things) applications.
During the call, Mollenkopf emphasized that the market for RF components is "very large" and that it's "good, profitable business" and that Qualcomm is well positioned with a "good set of assets" to participate in this market.
"We've got some execution to do to prove that," Mollenkopf said. "But we feel like we're getting the right pieces and we're going to make it happen."