Is This Chip Maker The Next Nvidia?

27 militaries in a frenzy over one material; Here's one tech expert's take...

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By The Motley Fool

Nvidia's (NVDA) stock price skyrocketed 1,750% over the past five years, turning it into the world's most valuable chipmaker, with a market cap of $1.8 trillion. That historic rally — which was driven by soaring sales of data center GPUs for processing artificial intelligence (AI) tasks — left Nvidia's semiconductor rivals in the dust.

One of those rivals was Qualcomm (QCOM), which was more valuable than Nvidia nearly five years ago. Back in May 2019, Qualcomm had a market cap of $104 billion, while Nvidia was worth $103 billion. But today, Qualcomm is only worth $174 billion, making it less than a 10th as valuable as Nvidia.

Qualcomm, which drove Nvidia out of the mobile chipmaking market in 2014, is still heavily dependent on the cyclical sales of smartphones. Meanwhile, Nvidia expanded beyond its core gaming GPU business and ramped up its sales of higher-end GPUs for data centers. That forward-thinking strategy enabled it to capitalize on the rapid growth of the AI market, which kicked into high gear as generative AI platforms like OpenAI's ChatGPT gained more users.

Could Qualcomm stage a fierce comeback over the next few years and become an exciting growth stock like Nvidia again? Or will it become a slower-growth chipmaker like Texas Instruments, the type of investment that's owned for stability and income instead?

Understanding Qualcomm's business

Qualcomm produces mobile system on chips (SoCs), which bundle together CPUs and GPUs for smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. It also sells stand-alone baseband modems to smartphone makers like Apple (AAPL -0.84%) that don't use its mobile SoCs. Like Nvidia, Qualcomm is a fabless chipmaker that outsources its production to third-party foundries.

Qualcomm was once the world's top mobile SoC maker, but it lost its crown to Taiwan's MediaTek over the past three years. Major smartphone makers like Apple, Samsung, and Huawei have also been developing their own first-party mobile SoCs.

Those threats, along with the cyclical nature of the smartphone market, drove Qualcomm to develop more chips for the automotive and Internet of Things (IoT) markets. In fiscal 2023 (which ended last September), it generated 85% of its revenue from its chipmaking division — but handset chips still accounted for 74% of that total.

The remaining 15% of its revenue came from its licensing division, which leverages its wireless patents to take a cut of every smartphone sold worldwide — even if they don't use Qualcomm's chips. This business operates at much higher margins than its chipmaking segment, but it's been repeatedly challenged by handset makers and government regulators claiming its royalties and licensing fees are too high.

Will Qualcomm overcome its current slowdown?

Qualcomm's revenue only rose 12% in fiscal 2020 as the pandemic disrupted the semiconductor sector, but surged 55% in fiscal 2021 and 32% in fiscal 2022 as those headwinds dissipated and new 5G handsets hit the market.

But in fiscal 2023, Qualcomm's revenue fell 19% due to the 5G upgrade cycle ending, macro headwinds throttling sales of new handsets (especially in China), and continuing struggles against MediaTek in the low-to-mid-range market. Its sales of industrial IoT chips also declined as the macro environment drove companies to rein in their spending. Its double-digit growth in automotive chip sales failed to offset all of that pressure.

Analysts expect Qualcomm's revenue to rise 6% in fiscal 2024 and 8% in fiscal 2025 as the smartphone market gradually recovers, it ramps up its sales of IoT and automotive chips, and the macro picture improves. But looking further ahead, Apple — which accounted for more than 10% of Qualcomm's revenue in fiscal 2023 — could eventually replace the chipmaker's baseband modems with its own first-party modems after 2026.

Qualcomm's loss of Apple — along with pressure from competition, the commoditization of the smartphone market, and the slow expansion of its IoT and automotive chipmaking businesses — will likely cause it to expand at a much slower pace than Nvidia for the foreseeable future. On the bright side, analysts expect Qualcomm's EPS to rise at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14% from fiscal 2023 to fiscal 2026 as it continues to streamline its spending and repurchase more shares.

Qualcomm probably won't become the next Nvidia

Qualcomm's stock looks cheap at 16 times forward earnings and pays an attractive forward yield of 2.1%. However, it will probably remain a slower-growth semiconductor play like Texas Instruments instead of a higher-growth one like Nvidia. Qualcomm is still a decent long-term investment, but its persistent challenges and a lack of clear catalysts will likely prevent it from becoming a trillion-dollar semiconductor stock like Nvidia.


The “Second Nvidia” Is About to Soar

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The artificial intelligence (AI) boom just created one of the biggest companies in the world. I'm talking about Nvidia. The firm is worth more than $1 trillion thanks to this explosion. However, most people don't realize Nvidia just got lucky! Because for most of its history, Nvidia has been focused on an entirely different industry – video games. You see, Nvidia's chips have been designed to serve just one purpose… To create ultrarealistic graphics in games such as Call of Duty and Counter-Strike. In other words… This technology was never meant to power AI. And that's also the reason why Nvidia could soon crash and burn… Because there's a new player in town – one that owns a patent-protected chip specifically designed to run AI on. This makes it much more powerful than Nvidia's gaming tech. I'm talking about a 100x performance boost. The U.S. Air Force, Cisco, and Raytheon are just some of this firm's early elite clients. But soon this chip will be available to the mainstream… And if you position yourself before it reaches the mass market, you could turn every $1 into $120… Just like early Nvidia investors did. Keith just published an urgent presentation on this unique opportunity. Inside, he explains all the details and how you can position yourself today. Get the full story here while there's still time.

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