Qualcomm Gives Rosy Forecast as Smartphone Chip Sales Soar

(Bloomberg) — Qualcomm Inc., the biggest maker of chips that run smartphones, slipped as much as 4.2% in New York trading after supply shortages hampered efforts to expand beyond its main business in the latest quarter.

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While overall sales and profit easily topped analysts’ estimates, the company fell short of projections in certain categories, including chips for cars, the Internet of Things and radio-frequency components. The pain was partially self-inflicted: The company prioritized sales to phone makers in China during the run-up to the Lunar New Year shopping season — at the expense of other categories.

“We still have more demand than supply,” Chief Executive Officer Cristiano Amon said in an interview. “I wish we had more supply.”

The shares fell as low as $180.37 following Qualcomm’s earnings report, with the concerns overshadowing an upbeat forecast for the current quarter. Revenue will be $10.2 billion to $11 billion, Qualcomm said, compared with an average analyst estimate of $9.59 billion. Earnings will be at least $2.80 a share, well ahead of the $2.48 projection.

Amon has said that the success of his tenure should be measured by Qualcomm’s progress in newer, higher-growth areas. On that front, the results were mixed last quarter. Revenue from the Internet of Things — efforts to add computing power to a wider range of devices and appliances — came in at $1.48 billion, growing 41%. But analysts had projected $1.57 billion.

As supply improves and phone demand eases, Qualcomm will be able to satisfy more of the orders it’s getting from newer customers, Amon said on a call with analysts.

Excluding certain items, overall profit was $3.23 a share in the fiscal first quarter, compared with Wall Street’s average estimate of $3. The company generated $10.7 billion in revenue, topping the $10.4 billion projection.

In the so-called RF front-end market — chips that help convert radio signals into data and voice — revenue was $1.13 billion, short of the $1.28 billion estimate. Sales of automotive chips were $256 million, compared with an estimate of $276.9 million.

Qualcomm shares closed up more than 6% at $188.20 in New York Wednesday, underscoring investors’ lofty expectations for its results. The stock gained 2.9% this year through Wednesday’s close, making it one of the top-performing companies on the Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index, which has slumped in 2022.

For now, Qualcomm’s phone processors and modems — chips that give the devices their computer-like functions and connect them to networks — provide the biggest portion of its revenue. Sales of phone chips jumped 42% in the period, while revenue from automotive chips climbed half that rate.

Qualcomm chips are appearing more in tablets, virtual-reality headsets and wearable devices. In industrial applications, the company’s products can be found in energy metering, warehouse logistics systems and retail point-of-sale equipment.

Like many other chipmakers, Qualcomm outsources production to companies such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and Samsung Electronics Co. A surge in demand has left these foundries unable to keep up. Amon has said that he expects to be able to get more supply in the second half of 2022.

The company is unique in the industry because a large chunk of its profit comes from technology licensing. Makers of phones pay to use Qualcomm’s technology, regardless of whether they buy its chips, because the company owns patents that cover some of the fundamentals of mobile communications.

While Apple Inc. doesn’t use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors, the iPhone maker buys modems that connect its handset to networks. Qualcomm’s leadership has acknowledged reports that Apple is working on its own modem, but the company has said that it doesn’t need to be a part of the iPhone to grow.

Qualcomm said Wednesday that Android devices — rather than Apple — fueled its sales gain in the smartphone market.

Revenue has the potential to top $46 billion by fiscal year 2024, Qualcomm Chief Financial Officer Akash Palkhiwala said at a company event late last year. That was above analysts’ projections at the time.

(Updates share price starting in first paragraph.)

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