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Qualcomm CEO more cautious on future revenue growth

Steve Mollenkopf,   CEO of Qualcomm,   responds to a question during the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas

Mobile chipmaker Qualcomm Inc on Wednesday gave a more conservative five-year outlook than in the past as it faces an antitrust probe in China and consumers there and in other developing countries buy lower-priced smartphones.

China’s expanding high-speed 4G network is driving demand for smartphones with leading-edge technology, but Qualcomm’s opportunities have been clouded by a year-old antitrust investigation there and troubles collecting royalty payments from device makers.

The company expects its revenue to rise 8 percent to 10 percent annually over the next five years and for earnings per share to grow faster than revenue. In the past, Qualcomm has had a five-year target of double-digit annual growth in earnings per share and revenue.

Chief Executive Officer Steve Mollenkopf told analysts at the company’s annual investor day that the troubles in China were hurting the QTL royalty business, which provides most of Qualcomm’s profits.

“On QTL, the short story is that the underlying market continues to grow, ” Mollenkopf said. “We are not participating in it right now to the degree we would like to, but once we resolve China, we think we’ll continue to grow in that area.”

Mollenkopf also said Qualcomm was adapting its technology to develop processors for data centers, a market dominated by Intel Corp.

Applied Micro Circuits recently introduced “microserver” chips based on ARM Holdings Plc technology that is widely used in smartphones, and Advanced Micro Devices is working on similar processors.

“The high-end design point for high-end smartphones, the evolution of the laptop and tablet, really are starting to merge with what would be feasible to put into the data center, ” Mollenkopf said.

Qualcomm’s overall revenue rose 6.5 percent in fiscal 2014, far below growth rates of about 30 percent in recent years. Analysts expect 5 percent growth for 2015, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Also on Wednesday, Qualcomm said customers were testing its fifth-generation LTE modem chip, which has improved upload and download speeds, and that it would probably be commercially available next year.

Qualcomm’s stock was down 1.7 percent at $70.79 in afternoon trading.

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