Qualcomm tops 4Q estimates, sets 4-for-1 split

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Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) raced past analysts' estimates in its fourth quarter Tuesday, raking in $170 million, or 91 cents a share, on sales of $1.1 billion. The company also announced a 4-for-1 stock split.

First Call consensus pegged Qualcomm for a profit of 88 cents a share in the quarter.

Qualcomm shares closed off 3/8 to 224 13/16 ahead of the earnings report. The stock fell more than $5 a share in after-hours trading but then rallied up $10 a share after the split was announced.

For the year, Qualcomm earned $420 million, or $2.46 a share, on sales of $3.9 billion, compared to a profit of $108.5 million, or 73 cents a share, on sales of $3.3 billion in fiscal 1998.

Company officials earlier this quarter predicted strong earnings this time around, mainly due to robust demand for its popular wireless phones and chips.

"During the fourth quarter, we achieved record shipments in all of our businesses," said COO Richard Sulpizio in a prepared release. "We shipped 14 million MSM phone chips, 15 thousand OmniTRACS units and 1.9 million CDMA phones. Component shortages in the phone business are beginning to ease, although these improvements were offset by lower phone prices."

Both royalties and chip sales were seen continuing to grow, with Qualcomm saying it was on track to ship more than 40 million chip sets this calendar year and 70 million next year.

"We expect to see sequential earnings growth in Q1 versus Q4," Chief Financial Officer Anthony Thornley told the conference call. He did not elaborate.

Last quarter, Qualcomm beat analysts' estimates, earning $135 million, or 75 cents a share, on sales of $1 billion.

If approved by the company's board of directors in December, shareholders will receive four shares for each share they hold.

"We hope this latest stock split will make it possible for more investors to share in the promising growth of our company and our industry," said CEO Irwin Jacobs in a prepared release.

Qualcomm shares have been red hot in the past year, surging from a 52-week low of 24 1/2 in December to a high of 225 3/4 in October. In between, it split 2-for-1 in May.

If you bought 1,000 shares of Qualcomm in 1991 for $16,000, you'd be sitting on 16,000 shares valued at more than $880,000 if the 4-for-1 split is approved.

Fifteen of the 19 analysts following the stock maintain either a "buy" or "strong buy' recommendation.

Reuters contributed to this report.