Qualcomm rises above Street expectations

Qualcomm Inc, the world’s leading supplier of chips for cellphones, reported quarterly earnings and revenue that beat Wall Street expectations and raised its financial targets for 2013 due to growing demand for smartphones and high-speed wireless services.

Qualcomm shares rose 6.4 percent in late trade on Wednesday as its outlook wowed investors, in contrast to sluggish demand at other chip makers such as Texas Instruments and Broadcom Corp.

The company, which also announced the retirement of its chief financial officer on Wednesday, said it was seeing strong growth in emerging markets such as China and Latin America.

But the outgoing CFO, Bill Keitel, 59, warned of the impact of macro economic weakness on the company’s conference call with analysts.

“Given continued global macroeconomic uncertainties, we are continuing to maintain a cautious outlook for the year ahead,” said Keitel, who will be replaced by George Davis, currently CFO of Applied Materials, on March 11.

San Diego-based Qualcomm is benefiting from strong demand for smartphones and a move by network operators around the world to a high-speed wireless technology known as long term evolution (LTE), where Qualcomm is ahead of rivals.

“That trend is continuing to work in Qualcomm’s favor. They’re the only viable option for LTE right now,” said MKM Partners analyst Daniel Berenbaum. “It’s a very strong quarter and the guidance is very strong.”

In addition to revenues from chip sales, Qualcomm receives royalty payments from phone makers with technology license agreements with the company.

“It looks like in the quarter, a little bit of the upside came from chipsets,” said Berenbaum. “In the guidance, chipsets came in around expectations. It looks like royalties are the upside to guidance.”

Qualcomm raised its full-year revenue guidance to a range of $23.4 billion to $24.4 billion, from its previous target of $23 billion to $24 billion.

It raised its earnings per share target to a range of $4.25 to $4.45 from a previous outlook of $4.12 to $4.32.

Bernstein analyst Stacy Rasgon said the outlook was “massively conservative” compared with his estimate of actual growth prospects, but said the caution could make sense given the economic environment.

For the fiscal first quarter ended December 30, Qualcomm posted a profit of $1.91 billion, or $1.09 per share, compared with a profit of $1.4 billion, or 81 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.

Excluding unusual items, the San Diego-based company reported earnings per share of $1.26 compared with Wall Street expectations of $1.13, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue rose to $6.02 billion from $4.68 billion in the year-ago quarter and compared with Wall Street expectations for $5.9 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Following his retirement, Keitel, who joined Qualcomm in 1996 and has been CFO for 11 years, will act as special adviser to Qualcomm’s chief executive, Paul Jacobs, for the rest of the calendar year 2013.

Davis has been CFO at Applied Materials, the chip manufacturing equipment supplier, for more than six years. In his nearly 13 years at Applied Material, he has also been corporate treasurer and head of the business development responsible for mergers and acquisitions, strategic planning, and management of venture investments.

Qualcomm shares rose to $67.60 in late trade after closing at $63.53 in the regular Nasdaq session. The last time its shares reached this level in regular Nasdaq trading was in early April 2012. The shares are near their post-dotcom bubble high of $68.87 hit late last March.

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Qualcomm rises above Street expectations