This column originally appeared on April 19 on Real Money, our premium site for active traders. Click here to get great columns like this.
In some ways, Qualcomm (QCOM) is looking like the anti-Netflix (NFLX) right now. Whereas Netflix traded lower on Tuesday after missing subscriber expectations and offering better-than-expected guidance against a backdrop of high expectations and multiples, Qualcomm is higher after beating estimates and issuing slightly soft guidance after going into earnings with low multiples and plenty of baggage.
One thing the companies do have in common: Their earnings commentary featured clarifying details and business stats that make each company's outlook appear a little better. But Qualcomm's outlook did come with some question marks attached, the biggest of which involve its high-profile legal battle with Apple (AAPL) .
Qualcomm reported adjusted fiscal second-quarter revenue of $6 billion (up 8% annually) and adjusted EPS of $1.34 (up 29%), topping consensus analyst estimates of $5.86 billion and $1.19. It also reported 179 million MSM processor/modem chip sales (down 5%) and $82.6 billion in royalty-bearing, 3G/4G device shipments (based on December quarter device sales, up 18%), topping guidance midpoints of 175 million and $78 billion.
But the company guided for June quarter revenue of $5.3 billion to $6.1 billion (down 12% to up 1% annually) and adjusted EPS of $0.90 to $1.15 (down 22% to up 1%), below consensus estimates of $5.9 billion and $1.09 at the midpoints. MSM shipment and reported device sales guidance ranges are respectively at 180 million to 200 million and $59 billion to $67 billion, mostly below consensus estimates of 197 million and $66.5 billion.
Shares nonetheless rose 2.4% in after-hours trading to $53.87 and on Thursday morning, were down slightly to $52.24. The fact that they went into earnings trading for just 11 times a consensus fiscal 2018 (ends in September 2018) EPS estimate of $4.75 -- an estimate that doesn't account for Qualcomm's pending and highly accretive acquisition of NXP Semiconductor (NXPI) -- doesn't hurt.
It probably also doesn't hurt that Qualcomm's remarks about Apple's royalty payments indicates a doomsday scenario -- Apple stops paying Qualcomm altogether while their battle drags out -- hasn't transpired. Though Qualcomm said the contract manufacturers responsible for paying iPhone royalties to Qualcomm paid less than they owed (on account of being paid less by Apple) for December quarter iPhone sales, it added the withheld payments were only equal to the $1 billion in rebates that Qualcomm has withheld from Apple.
In the lawsuit it launched against Qualcomm in January, Apple claimed the company withheld rebate payments because Apple cooperated with a South Korean regulatory probe of Qualcomm. But an FTC complaint made around the same time claimed Qualcomm provided "billions of dollars in conditional rebates" to Apple in exchange for the exclusive use of its modems -- something that Apple stopped doing with the iPhone 7, which relies on both Intel (INTC) and Qualcomm modems.
Either way, Qualcomm states the Apple agreement for which it's withholding payments concluded at the end of 2016. That means going forward, Apple can't use Qualcomm's withheld payments as an excuse to cut its royalty payments. Of course, this doesn't guarantee that Apple still won't underpay, and for this reason the midpoints of Qualcomm's revenue and EPS guidance assume some underpayment. The high end of its guidance assumed full payment.