Qualcomm Nixes Business Split After Strategic Review

Dec 15 2015 | 7:53pm ET

By Devika Krishna Kumar (Reuters) - Qualcomm has decided not to split into separate chipmaking and technology licensing businesses, concluding a six-month strategic review instigated by hedge fund Jana Partners.

San Diego-based Qualcomm, the biggest maker of chips used in mobile phones, said on Tuesday its current structure offered unique strategic benefits that cannot be replicated.

Qualcomm, whose earnings have slumped by more than 40 percent in each of the last three quarters, said it had "a focused plan" in place that it believed would drive growth. Chief Executive Steve Mollenkopf did not elaborate.

The company has also said all along that its existing structure allowed it to leverage relationships with Chinese customers, which are expanding quickly into other countries.

Jana, which owned about 28.6 million Qualcomm shares as of Sept. 30, is comfortable with Qualcomm's decision and supportive of the board's efforts, people familiar with the matter said.

Qualcomm said business in the current quarter was stronger than expected as 3G and 4G device shipments were helping its licensing business and cost cuts were taking hold.

The chipmaker said it now expected earnings per share for the quarter to be at or modestly above the high end of its forecast range. The company had forecast earnings of 80-90 cents per share for the quarter.

The technology licensing business has driven Qualcomm's profits for years, thanks to the royalties it collects on the chip-technology developed by its chipmaking unit.

"I think it's better that they didn't split. I'm happy about that," Tigress Financial Partners analyst Ivan Feinseth said.

Qualcomm can continue to outsource hardware manufacturing without having to go through a split, he said.


Some analysts expressed surprise that Qualcomm did not come up with any value-boosting plans.

"We have a hard time believing that keeping the status quo will help the stock rebound," BMO Capital Markets analyst Tim Long wrote in a note.

Qualcomm's shares, which have fallen almost 40 percent this year, were up 3.3 percent at $47.39 in late morning trading.

The special committee that carried out the review included two members nominated by Jana, which unleashed a public campaign to reform Qualcomm in April.

Mollenkopf, on an analysts' call, said acquisitions were considered as part of the review.

Chipmakers have raced to merge this year as they seek to meet demand for cheaper chips and to diversify their offerings to adapt to new trends such as the "Internet of Things."

Feinseth said Qualcomm should also join the fray, buying, for example, Apple supplier Skyworks Solutions.

Qualcomm, which has been facing a host of problems in China including delays in closing new licensing agreements, said on Tuesday it was making progress on closing the deals.

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