Alpha opportunity from modem and processor chips monopoly


3 years into Covid and the risk of recession starts to outplay the chip shortage story of semiconductor industry. With its unmovable monopoly status in its own specialties, we think there is alpha for Qualcomm against its semiconductor peers. Dominance in modem chips and smartphone processors, the company recently declared another victory as Samsung KRX:005930 gave up the plan of using the self-developed processor Exynos2300 and continue with the latest snapdragon SM8550 for the coming new galaxy S23. Just a few days earlier, another source has also shown that Apple NASDAQ:AAPL might not be able to develop their own 5G modem chip on time, which means until 2023 100% of apple products will continue to rely on Qualcomm for connectivity modem chips (instead of the previous forecast at 20%). Although the smartphone market is expected to go into a bear market for 1-2 years, Qualcomm business should still be able to maintain growth by expanding market share within. Another trend worth note taking is the rapid adoption of electric vehicles that has speeded up the development of smart-automobiles, which as a result dramatically increased the chips consumption for the automobile industry. Qualcomm infrastructure and experience in internet-of-things ( IOT ) application is going to give them a natural edge to make a monopoly again in car chips, which can be the growth story in the coming 2-3 years.

Albeit claiming monopoly in modem and high-end mobile processor chips, there are plenty of challengers from Taiwan and China especially on the lower-end chips. Among the challengers, Mediatek from Taiwan is rapidly gaining market shares by producing chips for mid-to-low tier smartphones such as Oppo, Vivo and most models of Xiaomi. The price barrier from lower-end chip makers make it hard for Qualcomm to entering the broader IOT market especially for devices that do not require high efficiency and computational power.

Trading discussion

Given the mid to long term positive outlook of Qualcomm , we can trade QCOM from both a short term rebound angle, as well as long term investing perspective. The company is currently trading at PE of 13.5, which is lower than its semiconductor peers . Low PE stocks are more defensive against valuation squeeze under the current increasing interest rate environment. Here are QCOM’s peers current PE for reference:

Technically speaking, QCOM is still under a bearish trend with the 20 days moving average running below the 50 days, and both pointing downward. The 50 days moving average is still the biggest upside resistance for QCOM with two previous breakout attempts on Apr-28 and May-31 both failed. Currently QCOM is flirting around the 50 days moving average again and we shall closely monitor if the breakout will be successful or not.

Here are some technical levels one should pay attentions to:

Downside support
  • 118.23: Jun-23 dropped to a 52-weeks low
  • 96.17: Jan-17 2020 pre-covid high, which was broken on Jul-30 2020
Upside resistance
  • 136.39: Jul-8 attempt of breaking 50 days moving average
  • 151.2: Apr-28 attempt of breaking 50 days moving average (also the current 250 days level)

Note that short term traders and long term investors can see and use the above levels quite differently. For short term traders, the upside resistance can serve as entry when breakout for trend following, and breaking downside support to exit. On the contrary, long term investors might make use of the downside support as entry to accumulate long positions at lower cost to save up more cost buffer to ride a longer cycle.

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