The semiconductor industry is known for its cyclical nature and has been through one of its boom phases. However, Susquehanna’s Christopher Rolland says the cycle is reaching a peak.
“Industry lead-times and valuation multiples have expanded to levels well beyond their historical averages,” says Roland. With the segment due a pullback, Rolland thinks it’s time for a reassessment of one of the chip industry’s giants – Qualcomm (QCOM).
And it’s not a positive one. Rolland downgraded QCOM’s rating from Positive (i.e. Buy) to Neutral (i.e. Hold) and slashed the price target from $175 to $155. Still, the revised target could yield investors returns of 14% over the coming months. (To watch Rolland’s track record, click here)
Over the past decade, Qualcomm has been through “some harrowing ups and downs,” Rolland says, although the 5-star analyst applauds the company for a “wonderful turnaround since 2017.” The trend reversal has resulted in the stock’s “exceptional performance” over the last couple of years.
However, there are several “future risks” which account for the downgrade. These include: “1) near-term benefits (long-term headwinds) from over-ordering and elevated pricing; 2) licensing and royalty fights in the future as handsets and 5G technology continue to commoditize; 3) a revamped and competitive offering from MediaTek; 4) supply issues (transceiver supply out of Samsung, Texas more specifically); and 5) most importantly Apple’s “doubling down” on modem and (some) RF independence in ’23/’24 and beyond.”
That said, Rolland does consider he could be making the wrong call. Qualcomm has steered its way with skill through various clashes with the FTC and Apple, coming out victorious in court cases and “reconnecting with their largest customer.”
Rolland also highlights his belief that from early on, Susquehanna identified the RF opportunity for Qualcomm, which could still be in its “early innings,” with RF wins accelerating.
“Trusted contacts tell us the company may be bundling RF in order to get 5G modems that are in tight supply,” Rolland noted as an example.
However, these positives are not enough to convince Rolland the bull case has merit right now.
Rolland joins a growing trend on Wall Street. The analyst’s downgrade is the third to take place within the last 12 days. Based on 8 Buys and Holds, each, the stock currently has a Moderate Buy consensus rating. The average price target remains an upbeat one – at $168.14, upside of 24% is projected for the year ahead. (See QCOM stock analysis on TipRanks)
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analyst. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.