Qualcomm Overhaul: $1.4 Billion Spending Cut, 15 Percent Layoff, Possible Breakup
Mobile chip giant Qualcomm (QCOM) said it will pare $1.4 billion from its $7.3 billion annual budget by cutting up to 4,500 jobs, mull splitting its chip and patent licensing businesses, add new directors, bump up shareholder returns, tie executive compensation to performance and adhere more closely to its technological knitting.
The company outlined its new grand plan, whose flavor was widely reported earlier this week, amid a sharp downturn in revenue and profit in its fiscal Q3. Sales fell 14 percent to $5.8 billion and earnings tumbled 47 percent to $1.2 billion or $0.73 a share, compared to the same time last year when the chip maker posted $2.2 billion, or $1.31 a share, in earnings on $6.8 billion in sales.
Qualcomm blamed the poor results on misestimation of demand in China and Samsung’s decision to use its own Exynos chip in its latest Galaxy S6 smartphone.
Qualcomm chief executive Steve Mollenkopf said that although the vendor’s sales, chip shipments and per share earnings were “within prior expectations,” its Strategic Realignment Plan, as the company is calling the overhaul, will “improve execution, enhance financial performance and drive profitable growth.”
Mollenkopf insisted that Qualcomm was not mortgaging its future, saying the vendor will allocate some $4 billion annually to R&D, including 5G mobile.
“We have been through industry transformations before and Qualcomm has always thrived coming out of them,” he said.
Still, the chip maker might as well have called its new blueprint the Jana plan for as closely as it maps to demands from the hedge fund, which earlier this year took a $2 billion stake in the company and has rattled management for changes.
Jana wanted Qualcomm to change up its board, and the vendor, which allowed that the two had been in so-called constructive talks, followed through by naming Mark McLaughlin, Palo Alto Networks (PANW) chief executive, and Tony Vinciquerra, a senior adviser to private-equity firm TPG, to its board. Qualcomm also pledged to name a director endorsed by Jana to the board.
In addition, Jana wanted Qualcomm to take another look at splitting its cash-cow chip business from its patent licensing operation, overhaul executive compensation and slash costs, all of which the vendor rubber-stamped.
No wonder Barry Rosenstein, Jana’s founder, described Qualcomm’s plan as “bold steps.”
Qualcomm projected sales of 170 million to 190 million chips in its FQ4, ending September 30, ranging between 19 percent to 28 percent less than at the same time last year and short of analysts’ expectations, prompting the question about whether the market is slowing or Qualcomm is ceding share to rivals.