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Top 3 Tech Stocks for 2013

Qualcomm

Chip maker Qualcomm continues to shine brighter than most tech stocks, boosted by explosive smartphone demand and consumers' appetite for superfast networks.

Widely regarded as one of the big beneficiaries of the push to high-speed LTE networks, Qualcomm provides chips to a host of gadget makers, including Apple, Samsung, Nokia (NOK), LG and HTC.

For example, the San Diego-based company has a power management chip, an LTE modem and an RF Transceiver within the new iPhone 5.

"Qualcomm remains our top large-cap pick as the company's focus on integration and a 4G modem leadership helps it outperform a tough environment," wrote Ian Ing of Lazard Capital Markets in a recent note. The analyst, who has a buy rating and $79 price target for Qualcomm, predicts "full steam ahead" in 2013.

There's clearly plenty of momentum behind the company. Qualcomm blew past Wall Street's estimates for its third-quarter results earlier this month, boosted by exceptionally strong demand for smartphones. The company also delivered healthy guidance.

This contrasts sharply with the cautious tone struck by other component makers recently. Intel (INTC) cited weak demand in its third-quarter results last month, while Texas Instruments (TXN) delivered weaker-than-expected guidance and announced layoffs.

Qualcomm, however, shrugged off tech spending headwinds. At its annual analyst event in mid-November, the chip maker projected 20% to 26% revenue growth in fiscal 2013 and non-GAAP operating income growth between 14% and 21%. The company's also looking for a double-digit Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) on revenue and EPS over the next five years.

Unsurprisingly, Wall Street sentiment towards the company has been overwhelmingly positive, with analysts predicting huge opportunities in emerging markets.

"We continue to be buyers with 2013 catalysts including China Mobile, new products, iPhone and a secularly growing smartphone market," wrote Sterne Agee analyst Vijay Rakesh, in a recent note. Some 65% of China Unicom's phones contain Qualcomm processors, added the analyst, noting that China Mobile presents a big opportunity for the firm in the first half of next year.

Qualcomm's Snapdragon processors already support a wide flavor of 3G and 4G LTE technologies, something that's key in countries such as China, where a diverse range of networks are in use. The next version of Qualcomm's Snapdragon processors will be introduced in the first quarter of 2013.

Qualcomm, which overhauled its corporate structure earlier this year in an attempt to speed up product delivery and protect patents, also discussed the opportunities around Small Cell technology during its analyst event.

Similar to Femto Cell, Small Cell refers to a low-power radio technology which can be deployed wherever users need to boost their data capacities. Qualcomm says that the same chips it sells to phone manufacturers can be used within Small Cell devices, potentially opening the door to a lucrative new revenue stream.

TheStreet Ratings has a 'buy' rating on Qualcomm.

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