Bypassing Qualcomm (QCOM) Turmoil: 3 Alternative Stocks to Add to Your Portfolio Now

QUALCOMM Incorporated (QCOM), valued at over $124 billion, specializes in wireless technology development, licensing, and smartphone chip design. The firm's key patents are focused on CDMA and OFDMA technologies, fundamental to all 3G, 4G, and 5G networks. As the world's principal wireless chips supplier, it furnishes high-end handset manufacturers with cutting-edge processors.

Canalys’ figures indicate the global smartphone market's persistent decline, marking its sixth consecutive quarter of reduction as of June 2023. Even while cautious optimism for a potential market resurgence remains, this downturn has tangible impacts on QCOM, a significant player in smartphone chip supply. The shrinkage, intensified by soaring competition from Chinese chipmakers, has notably impacted the firm’s revenue and profit margins last quarter.

The company experienced its sharpest stock dip in September, consequent to turmoil in China, which disrupted QCOM's sales in a critical market. The company faces manifold risks, amplified by the imminent wave of layoffs that has stirred public apprehension. The timing of this layoff news has coincided with persisting trade tensions between the U.S. and China and Beijing's enactment of a partial ban on using iPhones by government personnel.

According to recent filings with the California Employment Development Department, the semiconductor behemoth will eliminate approximately 1,258 jobs in San Diego and Santa Clara, California, to accommodate dwindling demand for its primary product.

The layoffs are a part of “restructuring actionsaimed at channeling resources towards “investments in key growth and diversification opportunities.” Although the loss of 1,258 employees will be felt, this figure represents less than 2.5% of QCOM's total workforce of 51,000 employees.

Concurrent with these measures, the company anticipates incurring substantial additional restructuring charges, most of which are expected to be borne in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2023. The company forecasts the successful completion of these additional actions by the first half of fiscal 2024.

Impact of the Layoffs

Potential layoffs at QCOM could be a strategic move to mitigate operating costs and bolster profitability and cash flow. This action can amplify the company's earnings per share and future dividend payouts and refocus its direction toward the core business and strategically significant growth sectors such as 5G technology, automotive tech, and IoT.

The latest data suggests that over 750 members of QCOM's workforce facing possible layoffs belong to engineering cadres, with positions ranging from directors to technicians. The remaining reductions will impact various roles, encompassing accounting and internal technical staff.

These substantial reductions in the workforce might slow down QCOM's manufacturing capacity, along with their research and development activities, which could stifle innovation in the long term. This scenario could pave the way for QCOM's competitors in the microchip manufacturing industry to seize a higher market share by providing more competitive products and services.

Given QCOM's ongoing challenges, investors may watch fundamentally sound stocks Apple Inc. (AAPL), Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD), and Intel Corporation (INTC).

Let’s discuss these stocks in detail.

Apple Inc. (AAPL)

Tech giant AAPL has continuously enhanced its capabilities by designing custom chips for hallmark products such as iPhones, iPads, and iPods over many years. The initiative to design these crucial components in-house significantly boosts the overall device performance and optimizes power efficiency.

To strive for a self-reliant development strategy, AAPL has gilded significant resources to produce its modem chips to reduce dependence on external suppliers like QCOM. However, the mission is yet to be fully accomplished.

AAPL has been integrating QCOM's and home-grown chips in the technology behind its flagship iPhones. Despite intense challenges faced by AAPL's ambitious Sinope project, which has yet to result in a standalone ability to produce a 5G modem chip, the spirit of innovation and the quest for excellence remains unscathed within the company.

This ambivalent situation was recently accentuated when AAPL extended its contract with QCOM to supply '5G modem chips', a deal set to last through 2026.

Indeed, developing a standalone 5G modem chip is arduous, though certainly not beyond the realms of possibility. With resilience and commitment to navigating challenges, it is undoubtedly just a matter of time before AAPL actualizes its dream of rolling out its home-grown 5G modem.

Considering AAPL's staunch determination and its record of technological advancements, realizing this ambitious objective seems attainable. It’s plausible that we might witness the introduction of AAPL’s modem even before the ongoing QCOM deal concludes in 2026.

Shares of AAPL have gained over 35% year-to-date. Wall Street analysts expect the stock to reach $207.51 in the upcoming 12 months, indicating a potential upside of 18.3%. The price target ranges from a low of $167 to a high of $240.

Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD)

Semiconductor giant AMD, which currently boasts a market cap of over $165 billion, is strategically positioned to meet the potential demands spurred by chip shortages that may result from QCOM’s proactive cost-cutting strategy.

Recovering convincingly from being on the verge of bankruptcy, AMD has seen its stock value increase from a dismal $3 per share. The remarkable turnaround can be attributed to the flourishing success of its Ryzen line of central processing units (CPU), launched in 2017.

Now, AMD sets its sights on the lucrative AI market, unveiling the latest iteration of its MI300 chips, which the company hails as its most powerful GPU. As the market yearns for fiercer competition, the new chip, set to commence shipping in 2024, feeds this demand.

Over the past three and five years, its revenue increased at 42% and 28.2% CAGRs, while its levered free cash flow grew at CAGRs of 83.7% and 103.7% over the same periods. AMD has massive potential over the long term, making its stock worthy to be monitored.

Shares of AMD have gained over 58% year-to-date. Wall Street analysts expect the stock to reach $137.48 in the upcoming 12 months, indicating a potential upside of 34.3%. The price target ranges from a low of $95 to a high of $160.

Intel Corporation (INTC)

QCOM leads in the Android industry but faces stiff competition from chipmaker INTC in the PC market.

With a commendable market cap of over $150 billion, INTC plans to capitalize on the burgeoning AI market and presented a strategic vision last month to position itself as a pivotal architect of AI-integrated personal computers.

INTC recently debuted its glass substrates, designed to give the advanced packaging of chips a significant edge over traditional substrates. The innovation is expected to have positively impacted revenues in the third quarter.

In the same period, a critical alliance was formed between INTC and Tower Semiconductor Ltd., which could significantly impact the broader semiconductor ecosystem. The alliance showcases INTC's unwavering commitment to broadening its foundry services and manufacturing prowess.

Moreover, a significant breakthrough came when Ericsson chose INTC's 18A process and manufacturing technology to advance its next-generation 5G network. INTC was enlisted to produce custom 5G SoCs for Ericsson, projected to have fortified the company's top line in the third quarter.

Shares of INTC have gained over 34% year-to-date. Wall Street analysts expect the stock to reach $36.67 in the upcoming 12 months, indicating a potential upside of 2.8%. The price target ranges from a low of $17 to a high of $56.


Should QUALCOMM (QCOM) Downsizing Be a Warning Sign to Investors?

The extensive chip utilization in diverse industries and the rising inclination toward innovative technologies are projected to propel semiconductor demand. The industry is further bolstered by enticing governmental incentives and investments.

QUALCOMM Incorporated (QCOM), with a market cap of $123.06 billion, specializes in wireless technology development, licensing, and smartphone chip design. The company's key patents pertain to CDMA and OFDMA technologies, pillars of all 3G, 4G, and 5G networks. As the world's principal vendor of wireless chips, it provides top-tier handset manufacturers with cutting-edge processors.

Despite its position, recent news of impending layoffs has raised some concerns. The company predominantly plans staff reductions and other resizing endeavors for the fourth quarter of the fiscal year, which is expected to be completed in the first half of 2024.

QCOM, having a presence in over 12 Chinese cities primarily for its semiconductor and mobile telecommunications businesses, reiterates its steadfast commitment to spearheading advanced technology development within the country. Furthermore, it ensures a supportive transition for its employees affected by restructuring, providing them with substantial redundancy packages.

QCOM's staff reduction strategy in China and Taiwan forms a part of its broader restructuring initiative, intended to navigate through the dwindling consumer demand for smartphones and other gadgets equipped with its technology.

According to Canalys’ figures, the global smartphone market suffered a sixth straight quarterly decline for June 2023. Despite a cautious optimism for potential market recovery, QCOM is feeling the impact of this downturn. This contraction, intensified by escalating competition from Chinese chipmakers, took a toll on the company’s revenue and profit margins in the last quarter.

The layoff news timing coincides with the ongoing trade tensions between the U.S. and China and Beijing's imposition of a partial ban on using iPhones by government personnel. This situation creates additional strain, as QCOM is a significant supplier to Apple, Inc (AAPL). However, the successful introduction of the iPhone 15 in mainland China might help mitigate some of these ordeals.

Moreover, China’s overarching smartphone market is contending with challenges, too. Sales declined by 4% during the second quarter of 2023, marking a record low for second-quarter sales since 2014, as per the market research firm Counterpoint.

Furthermore, QCOM cautioned that the cost-cutting measures will result in restructuring charges, a significant portion of which will be accounted for in its fourth-quarter report. QCOM projects its August sales to range between $8.1 billion and $8.9 billion, a dip from $11.4 billion in the year-ago quarter, while EPS is anticipated to decline between $1.37 and $1.57 from $2.54 during the prior-year quarter. This represents a notable setback for the organization.

Potential Implications of the Impending Layoffs

On the positive side, these drastic steps may enable the company to curtail its operating costs, enhancing profitability and cash flow. This could augment the firm's earnings per share and future dividend payouts. It may also steer QCOM toward concentrating on its principal business and strategic growth areas like 5G technology, automobiles, and the IoT.

Conversely, there may be negative repercussions. These layoffs could tarnish QCOM’s reputation and affect employee morale and customer trust. It may also decelerate the firm's research and development activities, consequently diminishing the potential for innovation in the long run. The company could find itself vulnerable, exposed to legal complications and heightened regulatory scrutiny, particularly in China, where it grapples with anti-trust investigations and patent disputes.

Therefore, the repercussions of these layoffs on shareholders will likely hinge on QCOM's capability to efficiently carry out its restructuring plan and adapt to shifting market conditions. The company's stock prices have been volatile after the layoff announcement, signifying a wave of uncertainty and investors' ambivalent responses.

Nevertheless, within this challenging scenario, it is also crucial to point out a few potential areas of optimism. Here are some additional factors that could potentially influence the QCOM’s course in the upcoming months:

Recent Developments

On September 11, QCOM confirmed a strategic alliance with Apple Inc. (AAPL) to supply its Snapdragon 5G Modem-RF Systems for upcoming smartphone iterations set to launch in 2024, 2025, and 2026. The partnership reaffirms QCOM’s sturdy standing within the industry.

Moreover, on August 4, QCOM joined forces with Robert Bosch GmbH, Infineon Technologies AG, Nordic Semiconductor, and NXP Semiconductors to financially back a German-based company specifically committed to bolstering global adoption of RISC-V.

The joint venture aims to accelerate the development and market introduction of products rooted in RISC-V technology across diverse industries. The widespread acceptance of the RISC-V technology envisages fostering more diversity within the electronic field - diminishing entry obstacles for nascent and smaller enterprises while facilitating greater scalability for well-established firms.

Robust Financials

For the fiscal third quarter ended June 25, 2023, QCOM’s total revenues came in at $8.45 billion, while its Earnings Before Taxes (EBT) stood at $1.76 billion. Its net income and earnings per share stood at $1.80 billion and $1.60, respectively.

For the same quarter, QCOM’s net cash provided by investing activities amounted to $1.74 billion, compared to net cash used by investing activities of $4.88 billion. Moreover, total cash and cash equivalents at the end of the quarter stood at $6.18 billion, up 93.2% year-over-year.

Furthermore, as of June 25, 2023, QCOM’s total current liabilities amounted to $8.46 billion, compared to $11.87 billion as of September 25, 2022.

Attractive Valuation

In terms of forward non-GAAP P/E, QCOM’s 13.23x is 37.8% lower than the 21.28x industry average. Likewise, its forward EV/EBITDA multiple of 9.84 is 28% lower than the industry average of 13.66. Its 11.33x forward EV/EBIT is 36% lower than the 17.71x industry average.

Robust Growth

QCOM’s revenue grew at CAGRs of 24.5% and 11.2% over the past three and five years, respectively. In addition, its levered free cash flow grew at 43.9% and 9.9% CAGRs over the past three and five years, respectively.

High Profitability

QCOM’s trailing-12-month EBITDA and EBIT margin of 34.28% and 29.51% are 274.5% and 553.9% higher than the 9.15% and 4.51% industry averages, respectively. Moreover, its trailing-12-month cash from operations of $8.65 billion is significantly higher than the industry average of $60.08 million.

Growing Institutional Ownership

QCOM’s robust financial health and fundamental solidity make it an appealing investment opportunity for institutional investors. Notably, several institutions have recently modified their QCOM stock holdings.

Institutions hold roughly 73% of QCOM shares. Of the 2,508 institutional holders, 1,111 have increased their positions in the stock. Moreover, 142 institutions have taken new positions (7,940,217 shares).

Price Performance

Even though QCOM’s shares have plunged marginally year-to-date to close the last trading session at $109.19, over the past five days, the stock gained 1.2%.

Wall Street analysts expect the stock to reach $136.30 in the next 12 months, indicating a potential upside of 24.8%. The price target ranges from a low of $100 to a high of $150.

Favorable Analyst Estimates

For the fiscal fourth quarter ending September 2023, analysts expect QCOM revenue and EPS to come at $8.51 billion and $1.90, respectively. Moreover, for the fiscal year ending September 2024, analysts expect QCOM revenue and EPS to surge 5.6% and 10.9% year-over-year to $37.67 billion and $9.19, respectively.

Bottom Line

Despite experiencing a deceleration during the latter half of the preceding year, the semiconductor industry hit an unprecedented milestone in annual sales with a growth of 3.3% year-on-year. While there are hurdles ahead, expert views remain largely optimistic considering the industry’s pervasive applications expansion.

In addition to industry tailwinds, QCOM finds itself poised in an enviable financial space. Optimistic analyst forecasts, compelling valuation metrics, steadfast profitability, and distinctive growth prospects augment this fortitude.

Further solidifying this perspective is QCOM's unwavering commitment to its investors, substantiated by its uninterrupted history of dividend payouts over the past 19 years. It pays a $3.20 per share dividend annually, translating to a 2.92% yield on the current share price. Its four-year average dividend yield is 2.31%. The company’s dividend payouts have grown at a CAGR of 6.9% over the past three years and 5.4% over the past five years.

However, potentially casting a shadow over these optimistic forecasts are QCOM’s planned layoffs, which could influence the company’s performance and stock prices. But the impact largely hinges on its historical performance and future earnings estimates.

The U.S. Dollar Is DOWN. Start Investing in These 5 Safe Haven Assets

With the latest hike, Jerome Powell and his team at the Federal Reserve raised the benchmark borrowing cost to 5.25%-5.50%, thereby ratcheting it up from nearly 0% in  16 months.

While a 2.6% rise in inflation, down from a 4.1% rise in Q1 and well below the estimate for an increase of 3.2%, and an annualized increase of 2.4% in the gross domestic product in the second quarter, topping the 2% estimate, had raised hopes that the elusive “soft landing” could be within reach, recent developments have been less than encouraging.

Despite the falling unemployment rate, the number of jobs created in July came in lower than expected, which could be symptomatic of an economy slowly but surely footing the bill of aggressive interest-rate hikes. Moreover, with a more-than-forecasted increase in wages, there are increasing concerns that interest rates could stay higher for longer.

To compound the miseries further, after placing the country on negative watch amid the debt-ceiling standoff at Capitol Hill back in May, Fitch Ratings recently downgraded U.S. long-term rating to AA+ from AAA, citing the erosion of confidence in fiscal management.

As a result, despite the salvo of interest-rate hikes, the dollar has recently weakened in relation to its peers. The dollar index, a measure of the U.S. currency against six peers, fell 0.185%. The euro edged up 0.31% to $1.0978, and the yen strengthened 0.16% at 142.31 per dollar.

Moreover, with every increase in benchmark interest rates, a selloff of long-duration fixed-income instruments, such as the 10-year treasury notes, gets triggered, which causes a slump in their market value and a consequent increase in their yields.

After benchmark 10-year yields jumped by as much as 15 basis points above the key 4% level, Peter Schiff, CEO and chief economist at Euro Pacific Asset Management, warned of a crash in Treasuries. He has also predicted the benchmark 30-year mortgage rates to soon hit 8%, a level last seen in 2000.

An increase in borrowing costs would not just raise the cost of servicing the $32.7 trillion national debt; significant markdowns prices of legacy bonds and an inability by borrowers to service them due to economic slowdown could crush the loan portfolios of struggling banks and make them go the way of the dodo, such as the Silicon Valley Bank and the First Republic Bank.

Hence, it is unsurprising that Moody’s has cut ratings of 10 U.S. banks and put some big names on downgrade watch, and HSBC Asset Management’s warning that a U.S. recession is coming this year, with Europe to follow in 2024 is gaining credibility with each passing day.

With a material risk that an apparently resilient economy could find itself regressing into a full-blown recession just as Jerome Powell’s colleagues at the Federal Reserve have stopped forecasting it, seasoned investors could be wise to seek refuge in anti-fragile assets which could see upside potential in the event of a turmoil.

Since a devaluation in domestic currency brightens the prospects of exports, one of the ways to navigate the terrain is to bet on U.S. companies generating international sales, which could benefit from an uptick in earnings.

Secondly, since the value of gold has usually been negatively correlated to the global reserve currency, the demand for yellow metal from central banks worldwide totaled 1,136 tons in 2022.

In view of the above, here are a few financial instruments that could be worthy of consideration:

QUALCOMM Incorporated (QCOM)

QCOM is engaged in developing and commercializing foundational technologies for the global wireless industry. The company operates through three segments: Qualcomm CDMA Technologies (QCT), Qualcomm Technology Licensing (QTL), and Qualcomm Strategic Initiatives (QSI).

Over the past three years, QCOM’s revenue has grown at a 24.5% CAGR, while its EBITDA has grown at a 34.4% CAGR. During the same time horizon, the company has been able to increase its net income at 46.4% CAGR.

On July 14, QCOM announced its quarterly cash dividend of $0.80 per common share, payable on September 21, 2023, to stockholders of record at the close of business on August 31, 2023.

QCOM pays $3.20 annually as dividends. Its 4-year average dividend yield is 2.32%. The company has been able to increase its dividend payouts for the past 19 years and at a 5.5% CAGR for the past five years.

For the fiscal third quarter that ended June 25, QCOM’s non-GAAP revenues came in at $8.44 billion, with QCT automotive posting an 11th straight quarter of double-digit revenue growth, while its non-GAAP net income amounted to $2.16 billion, or $1.87 per share.

Analysts expect QCOM’s revenue and EPS for the fiscal fourth quarter to exhibit marginal sequential increases to come in at $8.50 billion and $1.90, respectively. It corresponds to the midpoint of the company’s guidance for the quarter. Moreover, QCOM has met or exceeded consensus EPS estimates in three of the trailing four quarters.

Schlumberger N.V. (SLB)

As a global technology company, SLB primarily offers oilfield services to national oil companies, integrated oil companies, and independent operators. The company operates through four segments: Digital & Integration, Reservoir Performance, Well Construction, and Production Systems.

SLB has grown its revenue and EBITDA at 1.8% and 7% CAGRs, respectively.

On July 26, SLB and Eni S.p.A. (E), through its subsidiary Enivibes, announced an alliance to deploy e-vpms® (Eni Vibroacoustic Pipeline Monitoring System) technology. The new proprietary pipeline integrity technology, capable of providing real-time analysis, monitoring, and leak detection for pipelines around the world, can be retrofitted to any pipeline, regardless of age.

The system would be capable of providing real-time analysis, monitoring, and leak detection for pipelines around the world.

On July 6. SLB announced that it had been awarded a five-year contract by Petroleo Brasileiro S.A.- Petrobras (PBR) for enterprise-wide deployment of its Delfi™ digital platform. The award represents one of PBR’s largest investments in cloud-based technologies and sets the foundation for it to achieve its decarbonization and net-zero targets. 

During the fiscal 2023 second quarter that ended June 30, SLB’s revenue increased by 19.6% year-over-year to $8.10 billion. The company’s adjusted EBITDA increased by 28.2% year-over-year to $1.96 billion during the same period. Consequently, its non-GAAP net income increased by 44% year-over-year to $1.03 billion and $0.72 per share.

Analysts expect SLB’s revenue and EPS for the fiscal third quarter to increase by 11.6% and 23.8% year-over-year to $8.35 billion and $0.78, respectively. The company has also impressed by surpassing consensus EPS estimates in each of the trailing four quarters.

SPDR Gold Trust ETF (GLD)

GLD is a world-renowned ETF launched and managed by World Gold Trust Services, LLC. It offers investors exposure to gold, which has of late become an important component of their asset allocation strategy by acting as a hedge against volatility in equity markets, inflation, and dollar depreciation.

With $56.10 billion in AUM, all of GLD’s holdings are in gold bullion, stored in secure vaults. The physically-backed nature of this product insulates this product from the uncertainties introduced through futures-based strategies.

GLD has an expense ratio of 0.40%, lower than the category average of 0.47%. The fund’s net inflow came in at $6.82 billion over the past five years. It has a beta of 0.15.

AFLAC Incorporated (AFL)

AFLAC is involved in the marketing and administration of supplemental health and life insurance. The company operates through two subsidiaries: American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus (Aflac) and Aflac Life Insurance Japan Ltd. (ALIJ), which belong to the Aflac U.S.  and Aflac Japan segments, respectively.

Over the past three years, AFL has grown its EBITDA and net income at 6.6% and 16.1% CAGRs, respectively.

On July 25, AFL launched its new product, Aflac Group Life Term to 120, to provide worksite life insurance, flexible living benefits, and affordable rates that won't increase across employees' lifespans. With flexible living benefits designed to make it easy to use whenever needed, the product assures customers of financial protection when needed.

During the fiscal 2023 second quarter that ended June 30, AFL’s total revenues came in at $5.17 billion, while its adjusted earnings excluding current period foreign currency impact increased by 3.6% and 10.2% year-over-year to come in at $979 million, or $1.62 per share, respectively.

Analysts expect AFL’s EPS for the fiscal third quarter to increase by 27% year-over-year to come in at $1.46. Moreover, the company has impressed by surpassing consensus EPS estimates in each of the

In addition to its robust financials, the relative immunity of its demand and margins to potential economic downturns make it an attractive investment option for solid risk-adjusted returns.

VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX)

GDX is managed by Van Eck Associates Corporation. It offers exposure to some of the largest gold mining companies in the world. Since their stocks strongly correlate to prevailing gold prices, the ETF provides indirect exposure to gold prices.

GDX has an expense ratio of 0.51%. It pays $0.48 annually as dividends, and its payouts have grown at a 22% CAGR over the past five years. It saw a net inflow of $68.53 million over the past month. The ETF has a beta of 0.77.

GDX has about $11.71 billion in assets under management (AUM). The ETF’s top holding is Newmont Corporation (NEM) which has a 10.04% weighting in the fund. It is followed by Barrick Gold Corporation (GOLD) at 9.04% and Franco-Nevada Corporation (FNV) at 8.31%. The fund has 52 holdings, with 61.81% of its assets concentrated in the top 10 holdings.