With expected tariffs on more Chinese products perhaps only days away, investors betting on which companies are the most exposed should direct their sights toward Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM), a maker of mobile chips that does lots of business in China.
Shares have been under pressure for more than a month as investors worry about a potential trade war with China. And they have good reason. Qualcomm’s proposed $44 billion bid for NXP Semiconductors N.V. (NXPI), the Dutch chipmaker, still needs approval in China. Not to mention that Qualcomm does brisk business in the country and relies on China’s global supply chains. (See also: NXP Stock Seen Falling Amid Qualcomm Deal Concern.)
Deal Approval Hinges on ZTE
In June, Reuters reported that China’s State Administration for Market Regulation said it was still reviewing the deal and is holding talks with Qualcomm to remove anything that could cause harm as a result of the acquisition. Citing people familiar with the matter, Reuters reported that the deal's approval hinges on the progress of talks on the lifting of a U.S. ban on ZTE, the Chinese telecommunications company.
Since the news reports of tension between China and the U.S. have ebbed and flowed, concerns about Chinese investments in technology companies are the latest concern. Late last month reports surfaced that the White House wanted to curb Chinese investments in technology companies and would invoke the International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977, which gives the president board authority to engage in acts to protect the citizens of the U.S. The market reacted with a sell-off, and the Trump administration has since walked it back. They are now preparing to ask Congress to give more power to the Committee on Foreign Investments in the U.S. (CFIUS) to deal with foreign-owned companies purchasing U.S. tech firms.
Qualcomm Makes a Lot of Money In China
On top of the NXP deal, investors also have to contend with the fact that about two thirds of Qualcomm ’s annual revenue came from China during the past year, according to Barron’s. Citing FactSet, Barron’s noted Apple Inc. (AAPL ) and Intel Corp. (INTC ) are the only two U.S. technology companies that surpass Qualcomm in terms of revenue coming from China. (See also: 5 Chip Stocks at Risk In Expanding Trade War.)
If President Trump follows through with his plan to slap billions of dollars of tariffs on Chinese products as of July 6 and China follows suit with retaliatory tariffs, Qualcomm’s business and its stock could suffer. After all, Qualcomm and other chipmakers are extremely dependent on China for the manufacture and testing of semiconductors. So far this year, shares are off more than 15% and are down about 5% for the month.