Shares of Qualcomm Inc. sank Thursday in the wake of a disappointing quarterly report, but some Wall Street analysts see the ramp to 5G wireless technology and a potential settlement with Apple Inc. as the light at the end of a tunnel.
The semiconductor maker reported late Wednesday fiscal fourth-quarter earnings and revenue, including CDMA technologies sales, that were above consensus analyst expectations, according to FactSet. Although the company provided a current-quarter adjusted earnings outlook that was above projections, the revenue outlook was below estimates, reminding investors that the legal dispute with AppleAAPL, -0.71%and weakness in China would still weigh on results.
The stockQCOM, -6.91%tumbled 7% in morning trade, on track for the lowest close since July 24, and the worst one-day post-earnings selloff since it dropped 8.3% the day after first-quarter 2015 results were reported.
The stock has now plunged 18% since the quarter ended on Sept. 30, after soaring 28% during the quarter. But that rally was aided by Qualcomm itself, as the company disclosed it spent $21.14 billion to buy back 254.6 million shares, or about 17% of the shares outstanding. Read more about a $16 billion accelerated repurchase program.
Qualcomm said it has spent $542 million to repurchase 8.5 million shares since Sept. 30. That means about $8.3 billion remained from the $30 billion repurchase program it launched after Qualcomm terminated its deal to buy NXP Semiconductors NVNXPI, +0.26%in July.
Also read: Qualcomm drops NXP acquisition, leaves analysts concerned about Apple business.
“The report was messy, including effects of a broadly weaker China handset market, higher legal expenses, one-time tax benefits and reduced share count from the ongoing buyback,” Raymond James analyst Chris Caso wrote in a note to clients. “The [post-earnings conference] call drove some concern since it appears the company won’t hit their $5.25 [fiscal-year] 2019 EPS target, but we never considered that a reasonable goal in the first place.”
Caso kept his rating at outperform and his $75 price target, which was about 26% above current levels, because he sees a boost to earnings after a settlement with Apple, and because they are buying back nearly one-third of the company. “But while the buyback provides time to improve the fundamentals, we don’t expect investors to remain patient,” he wrote.
Analyst Christopher Rolland at Susquehanna Financial cut his price target to $75 from $84, but kept his rating at positive, saying he remains “hopeful as bona fide ramp for 5G handsets are set to begin” in the second half of the current fiscal year. In addition, “while management did not announce a settlement with Apple was near, they did note their timeline is unchanged and that litigation milestones are upcoming, with some even this year, a potential positive and catalyst for the stock,” he wrote.
Stifel Nicolaus’s Kevin Cassidy kept his rating at hold, given the company’s litigation issues, but he said he was “impressed with the 5G traction highlighted by management,” which makes it more likely that litigation concerns will dissipate.
“We believe Qualcomm’s lead in 5G over Intel may encourage Apple to settle the long disputed licensing payments,” Cassidy wrote. Still, he cut his price target to $58 from $62.
Qualcomm’s stock has lost 10% over the past 12 months, while Apple’s stock has rallied 17% and Intel Corp. sharesINTC, +0.96%have gained 5.4%. Over the same time, the PHLX Semiconductor IndexSOX, +0.05%has slipped 4.7% and the Dow Jones Industrial AverageDJIA, +0.22%has rallied 11%.
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