2 Growth Stocks Staging Comebacks
03/24/2011 12:57 pm EST
Investors’ worries over Qualcomm’s margins and Baxter’s market share have set up attractive buying opportunities, writes Elliott Gue in Personal Finance.
The stock of wireless chip maker Qualcomm (QCOM) has ample room to run. Management’s guidance for 2011 appears conservative in light of global smartphone sales, providing a low hurdle for earnings to surprise to the upside.
The company reported fourth-quarter results that beat consensus earnings estimates by about $0.10 per share and revenue by nearly $130 million. Management also substantially boosted its projections for 2011 earnings and revenue.
Qualcomm operates two major business lines: Qualcomm CDMA Technologies (QCT) and Qualcomm Technology Licensing (QTL).
QCT produces chipsets used in mobile telephones. In the fourth quarter, the company benefited from growing demand for smartphones and an improved sales mix that featured a higher proportion of its advanced Mobile Station Modem (MSM) chips, a product line that offers superior margins.
Although demand for QCT’s products should remain robust, management advised investors to expect the firm’s fat profit margins to slim down in coming quarters; the company plans to ramp up sales of lower-end chips in emerging markets.
But the long-term opportunities in these high-growth regions more than justify a quarter or two of margin pressure.
QTL collects royalties from the sale of phones and mobile devices that use 3G wireless technology—an extremely lucrative business, as Qualcomm owns crucial patents that enable these devices.
Fourth-quarter revenue growth reflected the same basic trends at play in the chip business: Higher sales volume and robust demand for advanced devices.
Buy Qualcomm under $60. [Shares traded at $53.40 Thursday—Editor.]
Baxter Stops the Bleeding
Widely considered one of the least cyclical and economy-sensitive sectors, health care balances these defensive qualities with attractive long-term fundamentals, including an aging population and rising household incomes in emerging markets.
Over the past year, Baxter International (BAX) has struggled to generate solid earnings growth, though its longer-term prospects remain intact.
The stock took a hit in April 2010, when a weak market for intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) treatments prompted management to report disappointing guidance.
Made from blood plasma, IVIG drugs treat a wide variety of disorders, including cancer, hemophilia and immune system deficiencies. In addition to its current applications, Baxter International’s main IVIG drug, Gammagard Liquid, is in trials as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and has shown strong early results. The full results of phase-three trials likely won’t be announced until sometime in 2012.
Gammagard Liquid and Baxter’s other plasma-based drugs have traditionally commanded a price premium relative to competitors’ offerings. In the first half of 2010, deteriorating demand in the US and some international markets forced the company to cut costs, in an effort to stem market-share losses.
Given the expense of IVIG treatments, the health of this market can sometimes fluctuate with the economy, especially when large numbers of layoffs put consumers on edge.
But the supply-demand balance in the IVIG market appears to be improving. One of Baxter’s only competitors in this market, Octapharma, was forced to recall a product late in 2010 and will likely operate well under capacity until the second half of 2011.
Meanwhile, demand for IVIG products has bounced back since mid-2010. Baxter International’s price reductions also appear to have preserved the firm’s leading market share. In fact, the company posted record IVIG sales in the fourth quarter, prompting management to ramp up plasma collections to support increased production.
Continued improvement in the plasma business should shift investors’ focus to the company’s pipeline of potential blockbusters. Buy Baxter International under $53. [Shares traded at $52.50 Thursday—Editor.]