Qualcomm Under Pressure From Jana Partners

According to the most recent quarterly newsletter from Jana Partners to investors, the activist hedge fund firm is pressuring chipmaker Qualcomm to consider a spinoff as well as taking other steps to enhance shareholder value. In specific, major shareholder Jana is requesting that Qualcomm spin off off its chip making division from its more profitable patent-licensing business.

Analysts note that Qualcomm studied, but ultimately rejected, a similar spin off plan back in 2000.

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Details from Jana Partners letter

Jana owns more than $2 billion of Qualcomm shares, meaning it is one of the firm’s largest shareholders. In the letter, reviewed by the Wall Street Journal, calls on the firm’s management to cut costs, boost stock buybacks and change up the pay structure, financial reporting and board of directors. The WSJ sources noted the regular quarterly letter is scheduled to be sent to Jana investors on Monday.

The source notes that Jana and Qualcomm execs have held private discussions since late last year. Jana said in the letter that negotiations have been “constructive” so far.

Statement from Qualcomm

“Qualcomm welcomes input from our investors and has a track record of active engagement with stockholders,” a spokeswoman for the firm noted Monday. “The board and management team will continue to consider actions that are in the best interests of all stockholders.”

Qualcomm facing headwinds

Also of note, the firm’s share price is off more than 11% over the last 12 months, and total returns to shareholders are notably behind the Nasdaq 100 index over the past five years.

That said, Qualcomm shares have outperformed most of its peers in the semiconductor industry. The firm has also returned over $37 billion in dividends and share buybacks to shareholders over the last 12 years.

Analysts point out, however, that competitive pressures are weighing on the firm. It still manufactures the modems used in Apple‘s latest iPhones, but Samsung Electronics recently decided to go with an in-house-developed chip for its new Galaxy S6 instead of Qualcomm’s newest Snapdragon chip.

Competitors have also cut costs in a big way to build market share in the Chinese smartphone market, a move Qualcomm has not matched to date. Moreover,  although the firm did recently settle an antitrust investigation in China, it is also dealing with antitrust probes in several other countries including the U.S.