Qualcomm will reportedly undergo a sweeping restructuring that could result in layoffs and possibly a breakup.
Qualcomm reports earnings on Thursday and the company has struggled hitting its targets. Meanwhile, Samsung decided to go with its own chips over Qualcomm with its Galaxy S6 line.
Aside from smartphone fatigue among consumers and competition from rivals like MediaTek, Qualcomm has been taking heat from activist shareholder Jana Partners. Jana, following a playbook largely established by Carl Icahn, has been pushing Qualcomm to buy back more shares, potentially split up, pay more in dividends and maximize shareholder value.
Qualcomm apparently seems ready to follow through. The most obvious move would be to break its chip business apart from the patent unit. Qualcomm's patents account for the bulk of the profit while processors represent most of the revenue. Why? Processors require capital expenses. Patent licensing flows to the bottom line.
The catch is that Qualcomm's patents mostly cover CDMA technology, which is giving way to LTE. Qualcomm notes the risks to its patent portfolio in its regulatory filings.
It remains to be seen whether some retooling actually yields results. Qualcomm is being investigated by the European Union, just settled with China and is facing lower-than-expected handset shipments. A retooling could deliver some value, but also become a distraction.