1 Year Later, Qualcomm Is Still King of the Smartphones

About a year ago, I penned a piece titled "Qualcomm Remains the King of the Smartphones."

In the article, I discussed how Qualcomm's technological leadership allowed it to command overwhelming share of the smartphone chip industry. I also made a number of predictions that were pretty clearly off the mark.

I'd like to take a closer look at those predictions and compare them to what actually happened.

Prediction No. 1: Market share declines for Qualcomm
In the piece, I made the following prediction:

It seems that better competitive efforts are on the horizon and that 2014 will finally be the year in which Qualcomm gives up market share, margins, or both.

Below is a table that shows Qualcomm's cellular baseband market share percentage numbers (per Strategy Analytics) for the first and second quarters of 2013 and the same quarters in 2014:


Q1 2013

Q2 2013

Q1 2014

Q2 2014

Qualcomm baseband share





Source: Strategy Analytics.

It's clear that this prediction didn't work out; Qualcomm not only maintained its cellular baseband market share, but actually increased it.

Interestingly enough, the competitive landscape has changed quite a bit over the last year. Broadcom , which I highlighted in last year's article as a potential competitor to Qualcomm, is now out of the running (as is Renesas Mobile, which Broadcom acquired to bolster its efforts in this space).

Ericsson, too, recently announced that it is bowing out of the stand-alone baseband game.

MediaTek, Spreadtrum, Intel , Marvell , and Samsung's internal chip division are all still in play, but as you can see in the numbers above, Qualcomm continues to extend its dominance.

Prediction No. 2: Qualcomm's bottom-line growth might be muted by competitive pressures
I also voiced my view that, as a result of this heightened competition, "Qualcomm's bottom-line growth may be muted."

According to Qualcomm's numbers, the company's chip division (known as QCT) generated $12.26 billion in revenue during the first three quarters of fiscal 2013 and then reported $13.82 billion in revenue during the first three quarters of fiscal 2014. Earnings before tax for QCT during the first three quarters of fiscal 2013 were $2.487 billion and grew to $2.762 billion during the same period in fiscal 2014.

Operating margin slipped from 20.3% to 20%, but this is hardly worth worrying about.

It's safe to say that, as a result of a very competitive product lineup and generally good smartphone unit growth, Qualcomm continued to profit nicely.

Prediction No. 3: Positive expectations already priced in
Last October, I also thought that much of the optimism surrounding Qualcomm's business was priced in, meaning the shares didn't represent a compelling buying opportunity.

On Oct. 14, 2013, (the publication date of the prior piece), Qualcomm's stock price closed at $67.75. The shares went on to hit a high of $81.97 (a 20% gain) before backing down to the most recent close of $73.51 (an 8.5% gain).

The stock price, when all is said and done, hasn't performed tremendously over the past year, but there certainly was some upside (and I believe that there's even further upside from current levels).

Foolish takeaway
Sometimes predictions don't work out, and it's humbling to see that things played out with respect to Qualcomm than I had expected. The company's position in smartphone chips is far more defensible than originally believed, and this strength, in conjunction with its lucrative wireless patent licensing business, leads me to believe that Qualcomm's business and stock price have a bright future.

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The article 1 Year Later, Qualcomm Is Still King of the Smartphones originally appeared on Fool.com.

Ashraf Eassa owns shares of Intel. The Motley Fool recommends Intel. The Motley Fool owns shares of Intel and Qualcomm. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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