While Qualcomm's earnings topped first fiscal-quarter forecasts, a dispute with Apple Inc. (AAPL) and soft demand in China's smart phone market led to disappointing expectations for the second quarter. The disappointing guidance comes alongside a hostile takeover attempt by Broadcom Ltd. (AVGO) and renewed demands by Paul Singer's Elliott Management Corp. that Qualcomm pay more for NXP.
Broadcom is playing hardball, having proposed an entire slate of directors for Qualcomm's March 6 annual meet. "[W]e believe these modestly weak results may actually strengthen the case for Broadcom's proposed board elections, pushing the two companies closer to a deal (which may ultimately occur at a nice premium into the mid-80s)," Christopher Rolland of Susquehanna International Group LLP suggested in a Thursday note.
Shares of Qualcomm dropped 2% to $66.86 following the report. Broadcom's $70 per share offer—and the expectation that CEO Hock Tan will increase his offer—may provide support to the stock.
Earnings of 98 cents per share in the first fiscal-quarter exceeded estimates of 91 cents, while Qualcomm's $6 billion in sales topped forecasts of $5.9 billion. The company expects 65 cents to 75 cents in non-Gaap diluted earnings per share in the second quarter, which would mark decline of 44% to 51% from the second quarter of 2017.
Qualcomm announced a deal with Samsung that could auger well for its long-running battle with Apple. Samsung agreed to drop its objection to a Qualcomm appeal of a 1.03 trillion Korean Won ($927 million) fine imposed by the Korea Fair Trade Commission.
Apple's lawsuit in California cites the Korean dispute as evidence of Qualcomm's overly aggressive dealings with partners. If Samsung's acquiescence helps Qualcomm resolve the South Korean disputes, it could weaken part of Apple's argument.
Apple and some of its suppliers have stopped paying Qualcomm as a dispute over royalty fees has dragged on.
"We value Apple as a customer and would like to continue that relationship into the future, but it is in our stockholders' best interest that we ensure that Apple pay a fair and reasonable royalty and operate on a level playing field," CEO Steven Mollenkopf said during Wednesday's call, adding that Qualcomm is open to a settlement.
A timely resolution would be a boon for Qualcomm. The second quarter is "typically an outsized quarter for royalties related to Apple products," CFO George Davis explained Wednesday.
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Meanwhile, Qualcomm awaits Chinese government approval for its purchase of NXP.
Elliott Management reiterated its argument that Qualcomm's $110 per share offer undervalues NXP on Thursday. The firm, which holds a 7.2% stake in NXP worth $2.9 billion, sent a letter to shareholders making the case that the chip maker is worth $135 per share as an independent company and that Qualcomm should pay a substantial premium to that amount.
Elliott is pulling out all of the stops. Rather than simply filing a document with the Securities and Exchange Commission or issuing a press release, the firm is mailing actual printed letters with color graphics to tens of thousands of retail investors.
NXP is strong in the automotive market and the Internet of things, and would lessen Qualcomm's reliance on smart phones.
"Given the core business dynamics, we believe NXPI is needed more than ever, both to function stand-alone as well as act as a defense," Bernstein AG analyst Stacy Rasgon wrote in a Thursday note. Qualcomm's offer to pay a buyback if it does not consummate the NXP purchase could be a sign that the company may not close before the March 6 meeting.
Qualcomm points to the opportunity that the advent of 5g wireless networks presents. Mollenkopf told investors that the market for Qualcomm's products will grow from $23 billion in 2015 to $150 billion in 2020.
"Whether you are a phone maker, an infrastructure company, or a network operator, Qualcomm is already identified as the key partner for accelerating your roadmap to 5G commercialization around the world," Mollenkopf said.
Qualcomm has a real opportunity in 5g, but Bernstein analyst Rasgon suggested that the next generation of wireless service is more of a story for 2020 than 2018.
The events of the next month or so could change the near-term outlook. "[I]f Qualcomm is careless enough to let NXPI slip through their fingers while [Broadcom]'s bid fails, we suspect fundamentals will become important again, bringing very real downside risk to the stock in that event," Rasgon wrote.
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