2 Things to Watch From Qualcomm Inc. in 2017

By Ashraf Eassa Markets Fool.com

Wireless giant Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) has had an interesting year. Although the company's stock price is up about 34% year to date (and the year is just about over as of this writing), its financial results in its most recent fiscal year were uninspiring. Qualcomm closed its fiscal year on Sept. 25.

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Image source: Qualcomm.

Revenue was down 7% year over year, operating income was down 9%, and net income dropped 13%. Thanks to share repurchases, Qualcomm's diluted earnings per share were down just 5%.

Nevertheless, Qualcomm's stock isn't just up over nothing. Though the company's fiscal 2016 results were down, the company reported strong results in its fiscal fourth quarter, with revenue growing 13% year over year, operating income surging 35%, and diluted earnings per share moving up 41%.

The company's outlook for the first quarter of fiscal year 2017 is also quite good. Revenue is expected to be between $5.7 billion and $6.5 billion (up at the midpoint from $5.8 billion in the prior year), and the company is calling for earnings per share on a non-generally accepted accounting principles (non-GAAP) basis to rise from $0.97 to between $1.12 and $1.22.

Heading into 2017, Qualcomm will need to keep up the momentum. Here are two things investors should be looking for Qualcomm to pull off next year.

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Maintain or grow mobile processor share

Qualcomm's chip business largely depends on the sale of mobile applications processors and related components into smartphones and (to a much lesser extent) tablet computers.

Market research company IDC projects that the number of smartphones shipped worldwide in 2016 will hit 1.46 billion units and that this figure will grow at a 4.1% compounded annual growth rate through 2020.

This suggests that the market for mobile applications processors could grow at about that rate (though shifts in average selling prices up or down could lead to a deviation here) -- in other words, low to mid-single digits.

This market is fiercely competitive, so if Qualcomm can just maintain its market share position in the smartphone chip market and, perhaps, grow its content share inside of smartphones (with technologies like its Snapdragon Sense ID fingerprint scanning technology), then its chip business should be able to deliver reasonable growth in the coming year.

Continue to push into adjacent markets

With smartphone growth slowing, Qualcomm is looking to other opportunities for growth. The company's acquisition of NXP Semiconductors (NASDAQ: NXPI) should help with that, but this deal isn't expected to close until the end of calendar 2017.

This means that Qualcomm's expansion beyond its core smartphone chip market in 2017 must happen organically during the year.

Qualcomm is casting a wide net; it's making a lot of noise about pushing into the data center/server market, it recently announced its intentions to try to get its Snapdragon processors into personal computers running Windows 10, it's going after the automotive market (with organic solutions), and it has also begun pushing into the consumer drone market with its Snapdragon Flight platform.

Qualcomm reported a greater-than-40% year-over-year increase in revenue from adjacent opportunities during its fiscal year. It will be interesting to see if the company can continue this momentum in these areas, as well as make real strides in new opportunities, over the course of 2017.

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Ashraf Eassa owns shares of Qualcomm. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Qualcomm. The Motley Fool recommends NXP Semiconductors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.