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Qualcomm and 5G signs are seen at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Shanghai, June 28, 2019. Photo: Reuters

Qualcomm forecasts upbeat third-quarter revenue as diversification bet pays off

  • Qualcomm’s adjusted revenue for the quarter ended March 27 was US$11.16 billion, above estimates of US$10.6 billion
  • Revenue from chips catering to auto and internet applications rose 41 per cent and 61 per cent, respectively, during the second quarter

Qualcomm Inc forecast third-quarter revenue above analyst expectations after beating second quarter revenue and profit estimates on Wednesday, largely due to its move to focus on a growing non-handset business to cushion a likely hit from slowing smartphone demand.

The robust earnings outlook and record quarterly revenue for the last quarter immediately pushed Qualcomm shares up about 5 per cent in after-hours trading.

Lockdowns in China, war in Ukraine and rising inflation have taken a toll on consumers, preventing them from spending on electronic gadgets like phones. However, Qualcomm has not been affected so far.

China’s semiconductor value chain facing more disruption risk as Shanghai extends lockdown

“The market in China is changing a bit. I think we’re kind of less impacted by it because we’re really focused on the premium and high-tier” smartphone market, Chief Executive Officer Cristiano Amon told Reuters.

Runar Bjørhovde, an analyst at research firm Canalys, said smartphone makers will want to focus on selling more profitable high-end phones as the supply chain constrains production, while consumers will want to buy cheap phones as inflation and uncertainty hold them back from spending.

He said the “sweet spot” will be in the mid-range devices (US$300 to US$800), where Qualcomm has a strong hold and excellent partnerships with the vendors who dominate this market segment.

Qualcomm’s strong results coupled with Meta Platforms’ surprising profit beat pushed Apple Inc’s shares up about 1 per cent in after-hours trading, providing glimmers of hope for a solid showing when the iPhone maker reveals results on Thursday.

“These [Qualcomm] results lay the foundation to make a strong case that the smartphone business is still strong after the traditionally big holiday quarter,” said Dan Morgan, senior portfolio manager at Synovus Trust Company, adding that Qualcomm derives 25 per cent of its sales from making modem solutions for Apple.

But Apple is working on its own chips to replace Qualcomm’s. Analysts have said Qualcomm is preparing for the inevitable.

“Qualcomm is certainly relying on the Android market, leaning into it heavily as they anticipate losing Apple’s business for its modem chips. Within Android, Samsung is the clear leader in premium handsets, and is likely to be an important customer for Qualcomm in the future,” said Logan Purk, an analyst at Edward Jones.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X60 cellular modem chip. Photo: Qualcomm/TNS

In the company’s earnings call, Amon said he expects the “relationship with Samsung only to increase,” adding that in the latest Samsung Galaxy S22 smartphone about 75 per cent of the high-end chips were Qualcomm chips, up from about 40 per cent in Samsung’s last phone, and replacing Samsung chips.

Still to reduce its dependence on handsets, Qualcomm has been diversifying its revenue streams by catering to other markets including automotive.

For example, Qualcomm’s automotive business pipeline is now at US$16 billion, up from US$13 billion late last year, mostly thanks to a deal it struck recently with carmaker Stellantis, said Amon.

Revenue from chips catering to automotive and internet-powered gadgets rose 41 per cent and 61 per cent, respectively, during the second quarter, while revenue from its mainstay handset business rose 56 per cent, helped by the new Snapdragon launch.

Amon also told Reuters that Qualcomm is open to taking part in an IPO by Arm Ltd, which makes blueprints that chip makers, including Qualcomm, use to design chips. SoftBank Group Corp owns the British chip technology company.

Qualcomm forecast current-quarter revenue between a range of US$10.5 billion and US$11.3 billion, compared with analysts’ estimates of US$9.98 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Adjusted revenue for the quarter ended March 27 was US$11.16 billion, above estimates of US$10.6 billion.