Americans have already had their fair share of confusion -- after being whipsawed with early election exit polls that proved misleading, investors were elated just to have clarity on the issue of their national leader. But sleep-deprived investors got another chance to debate and haggle when Qualcomm's
The easy part to figure out is that the San Diego wireless technology provider made a ton of money. The more difficult part was figuring out just how much it made, and whether it was more or less than expected.
You see, reading the tea leaves on Qualcomm's performance has been a little more difficult lately, due to a royalty accrual change the company decided to implement this quarter. The actual change has no impact on revenue received, only in how it books and reports it. But the real confusion comes when analysts and investors want to compare this quarter's performance to others.
After looking at numbers in several forms -- pro-forma, GAAP, "prior method," and "new method" -- it's easy to want to go back to a simple map with red and blue on it to figure out who won. But after sifting through it all, it comes down to this: While Qualcomm's quarterly numbers failed to live up to optimistic expectations, the company closed out an amazing fiscal year.
In fiscal 2004, Qualcomm grew the top line in excess of 30% and earnings better than 50%. It is now sitting on more than $7 billion in cash and equivalents and even paid investors $308 million in dividends this year. Growth in the Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA) segment is continuing, with 26% of its royalties now coming from this patented technology.
All this adds up to a stock that has appreciated nearly 70% in the past year -- amazing for a company that was already valued near $40 billion to start.
Unfortunately, 2005 is shaping up to be another tough year for Wall Street to gauge Qualcomm. While everyone else was worrying about the election, the company was one busy beaver, announcing three small company acquisitions and planning new investments in its business segments.
With all this activity, the stock will likely remain volatile in the near term as analysts opine the pros and cons of Qualcomm's new efforts.
Fool contributor Dave Mock still sees red and blue states when he closes his eyes. He owns no shares of Qualcomm, but has authored a book on the company titled The Qualcomm Equation.