By Renee O'Farrell
Many people give their cell phones and wireless service providers a lot of credit, but what about the companies that make it all work? There are several companies that fall into this under-appreciated industry. They are the ones that offer content enablement services for the wireless services, technologies used in global positioning systems, satellite and terrestrial location and communications services, and wireless spectrum services.
Within this industry, one stock shines brightest - Qualcomm (QCOM).
Qualcomm recently traded at $62 a share, which is 14.91 times its forward earnings and up 14.62% for the year. The company also pays a 1.60% dividend yield on a low payout ratio of 29.89%. Over the last five years, Qualcomm has earned 13.38% a year on average. Analysts are expecting that rate to increase to an average of 14.85% per annum over the next five years. Andreas Halvorsen's Viking Global upped its position in Qualcomm by 208% during the fourth quarter, bringing its total stake in the company to $464.20 million or roughly 4.84% of its total portfolio (check out Viking Global's top picks). Stephen Mandel's Lone Pine Capital and Ken Fisher's Fisher Asset Management are also fans of the company.
Now, consider Qualcomm's competitors.
Motorola Solutions (MSI) is trading at roughly $50 a share right now, up 7.49% for the year. The company has a forward price to earnings ratio that is a little less than Qualcomm at 14.19 and pays a slightly higher dividend at 1.78% yield on a 25.21% payout ratio. Analysts predict Motorola Solutions' earnings will increase by 14.46% a year on average over the next five years, but its earnings have fallen almost 25% a year on average over the last five years. With a record like that, I am not overly hopeful for what the future holds for Motorola Solutions, especially in the short term.
Harris Corp (HRS) is another competitor. It is trading at just over $41 a share right now, up 15.57% year to date. Harris is priced lower relative to its future earnings with a forward price to earnings ratio of just 8.03, the company pays a higher dividend at 3.19% yield and it has grown its earnings almost 22% a year on average over the last five years. However, there is plenty reason to avoid Harris. My two biggest reasons are its sky high payout ratio of 93.64% and its forecasted earnings per share growth of just 2.65% a year on average over the next five years.
JDS Uniphase (JDSU) recently traded for $10.80 a share, up 2.87% so far this year. The company has a forward price to earnings ratio of 12.79 and a strong history of increasing its earnings per share. JDS Uniphase grew its EPS by an average of 18.72% a year over the last five years. Unfortunately, the company does not pay a dividend and its earnings outlook is weak. Analysts expect this company's earnings will increase by an average of just 10.50% a year over the next five years.
We think Qualcomm is a better option than MSI, HRS, and JDSU and urge investors to consider initiating a position in the stock which is trading at a 10% discount to its end of March valuation.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.