Qualcomm CFO Says Wall Street 'Underestimating' Chip Business

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Wall Street is too wrapped up in Qualcomm's (QCOM)  troubles in China to appreciate the success of the company's Qualcomm Chip Technologies (QCT) chip business, CFO George Davis told TheStreet.

"It's easy to get overly focused on one set of issues. And anything that impacts the licensing business, because it's such an important part of the valuation of the company, sometimes ... has people missing just how strong the year QCT had in 2014," Davis said following the company's meeting with analysts at the Grand Hyatt hotel in New York City.

The set of issues Davis is referring to is the year-long unresolved investigation by China's National Development and Reform Commission into possible antitrust violations. Qualcomm is also embroiled in an ongoing licensing dispute with a Chinese device manufacturer. The company provided no guidance Wednesday as to when the conflicts would be resolved, and both issues have already negatively impacted the business as a result of lost royalty payments.

In the September quarter, Qualcomm posted $6.7 billion in revenue, which disappointed market consensus. Shares have remained depressed by more than 8% since the report.

The semiconductor company made an effort Wednesday to paint a rosier outlook for 2015 and beyond, telling analysts that its five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) will be between 8% and 10% per year. Earnings per share, Qualcomm CEO Steven Mollenkopf said, will grow at an even faster pace. 

China, as it stands, is both a blessing and a curse for Qualcomm. The San Diego-based company is shipping its smartphone chips at a speedier clip in the region (and other emerging markets), but, at the same time, taking a hit on licensing fees.

"[QCT] really caught the inflection in China, not only because the devices were ready across multiple tiers, but because we had the supply chain infrastructure in place to meet the demand," Davis told TheStreet. "That was much faster than anybody really had expected."

By Davis' estimation, the market is "underestimating" the capabilities of the chip business. In fiscal 2014, the company shipped 861 million MSM (multi station modem) chips, demonstrating 20% year-over-year growth. The overall QCT business grew by 12% and pulled in $18.67 billion for the full fiscal year 2014, representing nearly 72% of total revenue.

The health of the licensing business in China's all important market -- the largest smartphone market in the world in terms of units, Davis said -- remains a big enough question mark to keep Wall Street fixated on the impact of lost royalty payments in the region. For the fiscal year 2015, Qualcomm guided investors with an unusually broad range for Qualcomm Technology Licensing (QTL) licensing revenue of between $7.3 billion and 8.3 billion, with the low end reflecting the status quo in China and the high end accounting for some resolution in the region.

Qualcomm shares closed down 2.1% Tuesday at $70.47, reflecting the market's dissatisfaction with the company's long-term guidance. 

Must Read: 10 Best Apple Products Ever

--Written by Jennifer Van Grove in New York, NY.

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