Qualcomm's (QCOM) Earnings Wednesday May Be Overshadowed by FTC, Apple (AAPL) Troubles - TheStreet

Wall Street expects Qualcomm (QCOM) - Get Report to see top and bottom line growth when it reports fiscal first-quarter results after Wednesday's closing bell, but analysts are also looking for the chipmaker to address its pending $47 billion purchase of Dutch chipmaker NXP Semiconductor (NXPI) - Get Report , as well as mounting claims of antitrust violations. 

Analysts project Qualcomm will post adjusted earnings of $1.18 per share on revenue of $6.12 billion for the fiscal 2017 first quarter. In the same period last year, the San Diego, CA-based company reported adjusted earnings of 97 cents per share on $5.77 billion in revenue. 

Mobile station modem (MSM) chip shipments, which includes the Snapdragon LTE modem, are expected to total 217.4 million, slightly higher than the 211 million reported in the fourth quarter of 2016. IDC also forecasts that the average selling price (ASP) of smartphones will continue to deteriorate 4.6% each year. This impacts Qualcomm because its licensing unit takes a cut of every smartphone that is equipped with their chips.

Aside from earnings, though, Qualcomm's licensing troubles will be in focus. The FTC said last week it was suing Qualcomm for allegedly violating antitrust laws and using anticompetitive tactics in its licensing practices. Apple (AAPL) - Get Report , a major client of Qualcomm, has since filed a $1 billion lawsuit against the company, claiming Qualcomm unfairly collected royalties for technologies it wasn't involved with, including Touch ID and cameras, in addition to other allegations. 

Analysts are likely to ask whether the FTC lawsuit and other antitrust claims (filed by the European Union, Taiwan's Fair Trade Commission and others) could impede Qualcomm's planned NXP merger. Many have speculated the U.S. FTC case could go away under President Donald Trump's Republican-led FTC, but Qualcomm would still need regulatory approval from other countries in order for its NXP deal to go through.

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Several analysts have said the Apple lawsuit shouldn't threaten Qualcomm's relationship with the tech giant, however, and that the two will probably continue working together.

"Notably, Apple and Qualcomm had two [periods of] 30 days of negotiations before the complaint was officially filed," said Credit Suisse analyst Kulbinder Garcha in a Wednesday note. "...Without a third alternative [LTE chip] supplier, Apple will likely need to work with Qualcomm going forward. This becomes especially important as 5G roll-outs begin in 2018, as Qualcomm has a close alliance with almost all major 5G carriers."

Qualcomm has eased some of its dependence on top smartphone companies, recently adding partnerships with Chinese handset makers Oppo and Vivo. These deals should serve as catalysts for 2017, said Citi analyst Christopher Danely, who added that he expects Qualcomm to have a "good" quarter.

"We believe Qualcomm has benefited from share gains in the China baseband market," Danely explained. "...We estimate share gains at Oppo and Vivo drive an incremental $461.3 million, or 2%, of Qualcomm's C17 revenue of $24.3 billion and an incremental $0.04, or 1%, of C17 EPS of $4.33."

That said, Apple is believed to account for about 7% of Qualcomm's chip revenue, said Mizuho analyst Vijay Rakesh. While the Apple lawsuit is unlikely to impact its first-quarter results, it could generate some downside in the near term. 

"The concern for earnings...is that Qualcomm could potentially have to adjust [guidance] if it has to exclude potential Apple shipments, as it cannot estimate royalties (similar to what it did in China)," Rakesh added. "Nonetheless, we believe the downside is factored in, and Qualcomm is positioned for upside post any adjustments to earnings."

Shares of Qualcomm were higher by 2% to $56.15 on Wednesday afternoon. Over the last 12 months, shares have risen about 19%.