Qualcomm posted a bumper set of results for its full-year 2013 (ended 30 September), but low single-digit sequential Q4 growth, along with lower-than-expected guidance for Q1 2014, indicated tougher times might lie ahead for the US chip giant.
CEO Paul Jacobs (pictured), in an interview with Financial Times, nonetheless maintains that the launch of LTE in China and new tablet launches will bring about stronger growth later in the year, making up for earlier weakness.
Full-year sales, at $25 billion, were up 30 per cent from last year. The firm has benefitted from the boom in mobile data and high-end smartphones flying off the shelves in developed markets.
Net income was up an impressive 22 per cent, to $7.91 billion, for the full year.
Qualcomm, however, was in single-digit growth territory during Q4. While sales were up 33 per cent, year-on-year, to $6.48 billion, they grew by a more modest 4 per cent sequentially.
Q4 net income, at $1.5 billion, was up 18 per cent compared with the same period before, yet down 5 per cent over the previous three months.
And perhaps worryingly for shareholders, the firm’s Q1 2014 revenue forecast falls short of analyst estimates. The San Diego-based company reckons sales in the three months until December will fall in the $6.3 billion to $6.9 billion range, down from the average analyst estimate of $7.01 billion compiled by Bloomberg.
Analysts pin the blame on greater demand for cheaper devices, driven by emerging markets, as high-end smartphone growth in developed economies slows down.
A greater portion of business from less-expensive components, they say, may well hurt Qualcomm’s revenue growth.
“They’re seeing a bit of a slowdown in chipsets,” said Stacy Rasgon, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, quoted by Bloomberg. “This wasn’t a bad report, but it’s definitely not good.”
“We know you can’t get the same royalty revenue off of a sub-$200 phone that you get off an iPhone or the Galaxy line,” said Williams Financial analyst Cody Acree, quoted by Reuters. “We’re seeing evidence that the emerging-market impact is having pressure on revenue and earnings trends and it’s forcing the company to react and cut its spending.”
Qualcomm forecasts full-year 2014 revenue falling between $26 billion and $27.5 billion, giving growth of between 5 per cent and 11 per cent.
It’s a far cry from the stellar double-digit growth rates that Qualcomm has enjoyed since 2010 on the back of brisk smartphone demand.
“Qualcomm remains well positioned from a growth standpoint, and we expect double-digit compound annual growth rates for both revenues and earnings per share over the next five years,” said Jacobs in a statement.