Qualcomm On the Rise, Intel On the Decline

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The latest quarterly earnings statement from Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) blew away most estimates. This resulted in the company's stock actually briefly surpassing the market valuation of long-time chip champion, Intel (NASDAQ: INTC). This is not a blip. There are reasons why investors should expect this to be the continuation of a long-term trend where Qualcomm outperforms Intel. 

Qualcomm had such a good quarter because it is largest seller of semiconductors for mobile phones, including the iPhone 5 from Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and the latest offerings from Samsung like the Galaxy S III. It is also a big player in chips for tablets. The majority of the company's revenues comes from baseband chips, which connect phones to cellular networks. These chips are sold to firms like Apple and Samsung. 

Mike Burton, an analyst at Brean Capital LLC, said “Qualcomm has absolutely been one of the prime beneficiaries in smartphones and tablets.” Meanwhile, Intel is a laggard in the market for mobile phone chips and is being hurt by the steady decline in demand for PCs. PC shipments are headed for their first annual decline in 11 years this year, according to research firm IHS iSuppli. 

Qualcomm's chips are based on designs from Intel's adversary, U.K.-based Arm Holdings PLC ADR (NASDAQ: ARMH). Arm designs chips that use much less power than Intel chips while still being powerful. In fact, Bloomberg has reported that Apple is even considering dumping Intel's chips from use in its MAC computers in favor of Arm-designed chips. 

Clear Sailing in 2013 

More good news for Qualcomm shareholders is the fact that the company forecast continued strong demand for its chips in the current quarter. Qualcomm pointed to factors such as fast-growing demand for smartphones among emerging market consumers. Qualcomm's CEO Paul Jacobs told the Financial Times “Smartphones in China are really strong right now and cell phones are staples, not luxury items any more.” 

Despite a bit of a slowdown in the sales growth rate in the third quarter, the future is bright for smartphones. Research firm NPD Display Search says that 567 million smartphones will be shipped this year and that number will surpass 1 billion in 2016. 

Qualcomm is not sitting on its laurels either. It is aggressively expanding into the market for application processors. These are the chips that run programs in smartphones and tablets. For example, the company will be supplying its Snapdragon product to computer makers using the new version of the Windows operating system, Windows 8, from Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT). Snapdragon is also the sole supplier being used by every manufacturer of Windows smartphones. 

The Years Ahead 

This move into application processors is not surprising. Qualcomm was quick to enter the mobile phone market too. Its president Steve Mollenkopf told the Financial Times “We saw that mobile was going to be the key market to be in some time ago and we invested in key technologies much earlier than everybody else.” Particularly Intel, which is still talking about a golden age for PCs 

In the years ahead, if current trends continue, Qualcomm will be a more valuable company than Intel. 

Look at the past decade. Intel's valuation peaked at $502 billion in 2000 during the internet bubble. Its shares have fallen about 15% this year alone and about 14% over the past 10 years. Meanwhile, shares of Qualcomm have jumped about 255% over the past decade and are up roughly 8% this year. 

The next decade will likely show an ever growing gap between the two companies fortunes. 


tdalmoe has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Intel, Microsoft, and Qualcomm. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple, ARM Holdings, Intel, and Microsoft. 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.If you have questions about this post or the Fool’s blog network, click here for information.

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