Qualcomm sees earnings below Street as smartphone market sags

People visit a Qualcomm booth at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Shanghai, China February 23, 2021. REUTERS/Aly Song

BENGALURU/OAKLAND, Calif (Reuters) - Qualcomm Inc forecast second-quarter revenue and profit below Wall Street estimates on Thursday as the chipmaker grapples with the combined toll of weak demand for smartphones and a supply glut, a situation that is expected to persist into the first-half of this year.

Inflation and macroeconomic uncertainty have hurt consumer electronics sales, and while Qualcomm has been somewhat buffered by its focus on premium smartphones, analysts said even that market has been hit.

The stock, which initially rose 2.7% in after-hours trading, fell 3%.

"The handset industry continues to experience reduced demand, and we are now expecting elevated channel inventory levels to persist at least through the first half of calendar 2023," Cristiano Amon, Qualcomm CEO told investors.

To cope, he said the company would further cut spending and streamline operations.

On Wednesday, Samsung Electronics launched its latest Galaxy S23 series smartphone which now uses 100% of Qualcomm processors globally, but the launch comes at a tough time in the market.

"Discussions with mobile service providers revealed a continued and deepening weakness in smartphone demand globally which doesn't bode well for Qualcomm," said Maribel Lopez, tech analyst at Lopez Research.

Apple, the world's largest listed company, said iPhone sales fell last quarter for the first time since 2020.

Graphic: Smartphone shipments fell in 2022 as spending soured https://www.reuters.com/graphics/QUALCOMM-RESULTS/zjvqjwwzgpx/chart.png

Qualcomm has also diversified, pushing into new fast-growing areas such as automotive. Revenue for that business in the fiscal first quarter rose 58% on year to $456 million, although the company expects that to be sequentially flat in the current quarter.

The chipmaker forecast current quarter revenue in the range of $8.7 billion to $9.5 billion, compared with analysts' estimates of $9.55 billion, according to Refinitiv data.

Its fiscal first quarter revenue dropped 12% year-on-year to $9.46 billion, below Wall Street expectation of $9.60 billion.

"I don't think we have hit rock bottom (for the smartphone market) yet. We still have a rough year ahead," said IDC analyst Nabila Popal. "Real recovery is not likely until 2024."

First quarter revenue from Qualcomm's handset business, which makes up the largest chunk of total sales, fell 18% on year to $5.75 billion, compared to 40% growth in the previous quarter.

It expects adjusted earnings per share to be between $2.05 and $2.25, compared to analysts expectations of $2.26 per share.

In the first quarter, Qualcomm reported adjusted earnings per share of $ 2.37, which compares with the analyst consensus of $2.34 per share, according to Refinitiv data.

Qualcomm also said during the earnings call that it doesn't expect its current licenses to export 4G, Wi-Fi and other chips to Chinese telecom giant Huawei to be impacted by reports that the U.S. Commerce Department has stopped granting export licenses to Huawei.

"Those licenses were issued because Congress reached the determination that they don't affect national security issues. Those will continue for some number of years," Alex Rogers, president of Qualcomm Technology Licensing and Global Affairs said on the call with investors.

(Reporting by Chavi Mehta in Bengaluru and Jane Lanhee Lee in Oakland; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Anna Driver)

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