By Chavi Mehta and Jane Lanhee Lee
-Qualcomm Inc’s forecast for holiday-quarter revenue fell about $2 billion short of Street estimates, as the chipmaker struggles with a slump in sales to smartphone customers, sending its shares down 7% in after-hours trading.
The company also projected a lower-than-expected profit for the quarter, and said it expected a low double-digit percentage decline in handset volumes this year, compared with its prior forecast of a mid-single-digit percentage drop.
Qualcomm’s disappointing forecast comes shortly after both Intel Corp and Advanced Micro Devices Inc cut their earnings estimates, in a sign that the slump in demand is plaguing the wider industry.
Chipmakers including Texas Instruments and Micron Technology have also raised concerns about a sharp drop in demand from electronics companies as consumer curb their discretionary spend due to decades-high inflation, rising interest rates and fears of an economic slowdown.
A recovery in the smartphone market could be pushed to the second half of 2023 from the first half, IDC analyst Nabila Popal said.
“Demand has dropped globally, but very much so in China as well as in emerging markets. This is what’s actually pulling (down) the smartphone market the most,” she said.
The easing of chip shortages and supply-chain bottlenecks in recent quarters has led to excess inventory at smartphone makers, with Qualcomm estimating about eight to 10 weeks worth of “elevated inventory” that could take a couple of quarters to work through.
Qualcomm Chief Financial Officer Akash Palkhiwala said the holiday-quarter could be the bottom in terms of inventory as manufacturers use up their existing chips.
Revenue from Qualcomm’s handsets business, which accounts for more than half its total sales, rose 40% in the fourth quarter ended Sept. 25, although revenue from chips that enable WiFi and Bluetooth connections fell by a fifth.
It was not all doom and gloom for Qualcomm as it won more business from Apple, which the chipmaker has been trying to rely less on, and said the company would start to see benefits from its increased share of chips Samsung uses in the March quarter.
Qualcomm said it was now expecting to have the vast majority of 5G modem share for the 2023 iPhone launch, up from a previous assumption of 20%. It also said on a post-earnings call that it was assuming minimal contribution from Apple in fiscal 2025.
“We believe Apple will drive some growth in the December quarter … but the Android market is extremely weak and many new premium-tier foldable models that were launched a few months ago did not sell well at all,” said Kinngai Chan, analyst at Summit Insights Group.
The company is also facing stiffer competition from Taiwanese chipmaker MediaTek in the higher-end Android market, said Runar Bjørhovde, research analyst at Canalys.
Qualcomm forecast current-quarter revenue between $9.2 billion and $10 billion, compared with analysts’ estimates of $12.02 billion, according to Refinitiv. It expects adjusted earnings per share of between $2.25 and $2.45, versus expectations of $3.42.
To cope with the tough macroeconomic environment, Qualcomm Chief Executive Cristiano Amon told analysts the company had implemented a hiring freeze and would make further cuts to operating expenses as needed.