After withstanding pressure from activist investors and mitigating the loss of space inside the Apple (AAPL) - Get Report iPhone 7, Qualcomm's (QCOM) - Get Report fourth-quarter results will reveal to investors how the company's licensing business is doing, as well as long-term viability of its leadership position in LTE.
"[Qualcomm] still has a very profitable license business but the entry of [Intel] into [Apple] raised serious questions about long-term LTE leadership and will likely remain an overhang for the story for some time (particularly given recent speculation about Mediatek share gains at Samsung)," Barclays Capital analyst Blayne Curits wrote to clients. "There is likely some further benefit from catch-up payments/new license agreements into year end, but the picture is murkier post 2016 and we see risk that QCOM may struggle to deliver growth into 2017 and beyond."
The San Diego-based chipmaker derives its revenue in two segments: selling chips to smart device makers, as well as its lucrative royalty business, known as Qualcomm Technology Licensing or QTL.
Earlier this year, activist investor Jana Partners cut the majority of its stake in Qualcomm, after putting pressure on the company in 2015 to separate its capital-intensive chipmaking business from QTL, which provides most of the company's income. Qualcomm underwent a review and ultimately concluded it was in the best interest of shareholders to keep the company as one.
Curtis believes that that while the fourth-quarter will see a reduced mix of QTL revenue, the segment should return to growth in the December quarter, "reflecting both seasonally higher device sales in Sept. vs. June and likely some additional catch-up payments potentially translating to a higher implied royalty rate in the Q (we estimate closer to 3%)."
In addition, there's concern for Qualcomm, given its placement in the Samsung SSNLF Galaxy Note 7, which has experienced fires, ultimately leading for Samsung to recall the phone.
Canaccord Genuity analyst T. Michael Walkley, who rates Qualcomm buy with a $75 price target, wrote there may be a "modest impact of lower Snapdragon 820 sales" during the next two quarters, estimating that Samsung would sell around 20 million units of the phone annually.
Analysts surveyed by Yahoo! Finance expect Qualcomm to earn $1.13 a share on $5.84 billion in revenue.
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Despite concerns about the Galaxy Note 7, Canaccord Genuity's Walkley believes Samsung may discount the Galaxy S 7, "which could potentially soften the impact of Qualcomm's lost sales to the Note 7." Walkley estimates there will be 60 million S 7's sold.
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Walkley also noted that Qualcomm's issues in China may also be turning around, having signed deals with Vivo and Oppo. The chipmaking business is also gaining market share on Android, which will help market share as well as margins, which are expected to be around 60% for the quarter.
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