Editor’s note: This column is part of our “Best Stocks for 2013″ series; stay tuned for more entrants today, and check back tomorrow for a wrap-up of all the picks.
Don’t let the recent slide by Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) fool you — mobile is still likely to be the dominant tech theme of 2013. But why play it just through Apple? There’s more to smartphones and tablets than iPhones and iPads. And investors who hope to profit as consumers follow the lead of The Who by going mobile (beep beep!) can do so via one of the leading makers of chipsets for tech gadgets: Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM).
It’s amazing to think that Qualcomm — the proverbial “it” stock of the late 1990s (remember the infamous $1,000 price target from a sell-side analyst?) — is now something that a value-oriented type like me can heartily endorse. But it’s true.
In fact, one of the main reasons I chose Qualcomm for my InvestorPlace pick this year is because it passed a fairly rigorous stock screen I ran of S&P 500 companies. Qualcomm was one of only seven S&P 500 stocks that came up when I looked for companies that pay dividends, have relatively low debt, trade at a reasonable P/E ratio and have estimates for double-digit growth this year and next for both earnings and revenue. (Apple also made the cut, by the way.)
The company pays a dividend that yields 1.5%. That’s not that much lower than what you can get from a stodgy 10-year Treasury note. And Qualcomm shares also look like a great bargain to start the year, trading for less than 15 times fiscal 2013 earnings estimates. Analysts are predicting a nearly 16% increase in profits this year … and those levels could turn out to be low if Qualcomm wins more business for its Snapdragon mobile chipsets.
Snapdragon is already an important component of most Android phones. In fact, the close ties between Qualcomm and Android developer Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) have led some to dub them “Quadroid.” Not to be confused with The Who’s Quadrophenia, Quadroid could be the 21st-century mobile answer to the Wintel alliance of Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows operating system and Intel’s (NASDAQ:INTC) chips that still dominates the slowly decaying PC market.
With Samsung, HTC and Google’s own Motorola unit all developing phones that are highly competitive with Apple, the continued success of Android bodes extremely well for Qualcomm. There is also speculation that Snapdragon could be part of Research In Motion’s (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry 10 devices. Yes, it may be hard to imagine RIM making a big comeback in the smartphone world … but stranger things have happened.
Finally, let’s get back to Apple. Investors may be getting a little too bearish about the prospects for the maker of iEverything. And if Apple comes roaring back this year, that helps Qualcomm too. Some of the company’s baseband chips are part of both the iPhone 5 and the iPad Mini.
At the end of the day, Qualcomm looks like it is poised to benefit from the one thing that is certain in 2013: People are going to buy more smartphones and tablets. So why make bets on who’s going to steal more market share when you can own a profitable, growing, dividend-paying component maker with ties to nearly all of the major hardware players? Qualcomm truly is the mighty Q.