Phone chipmaker Broadcom has made a surprising and splashy $105 billion bid for its rival Qualcomm yesterday, making it potentially the biggest takeover in the history of the technology – if the deal goes through.
There are lots of ifs and buts at this point, primarily the big challenges the deal could face in terms of antitrust approval by federal regulators in the United States, not to mention the fact that Qualcomm hasn’t even accepted the bid yet. Qualcomm has no comment so far, other than saying that it’s received the unsolicited bid.
San Diego-based mobile chip giant Qualcomm’s stock jumped 13 percent just on the deal rumors last week, creating the largest one-day spike for the company since 2008. Qualcomm is deep in the midst of a fierce battle with Apple over patent licensing fees – Apple alleges fraudulent royalty charges and Qualcomm alleges patent infringement. If the deal with Broadcom goes through, it could create calmer waters for Apple though since it has a much better relationship with Broadcom as a component supplier than it does with Qualcomm.
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“Broadcom and Apple have a much more cohesive partnership, in contrast to the hostility and lawsuits you have between Qualcomm and Apple, so Broadcom may logically think, and we think it’s fair, that they could resolve these regulatory litigation issues more easily than Qualcomm is doing right now,” RBC Capital Markets’ Amit Daryanani told CNBC’s “Squawk Alley” on Monday.
Broadcom is a semiconductor company, like Qualcomm, and it creates chips and computer components that are used in smartphones, laptops, data centers, video game consoles, and other devices. Qualcomm currently reports $22 billion in annual sales revenue compared to Broadcom’s $18 billion. In 2016, Broadcom was ranked the fifth largest semiconductor vendor in the world by revenue; Intel, Samsung Electronics, and Qualcomm were in the top three for revenue, according to Gartner.
Broadcom has also been in the news lately due to its big announcement last week that it would move its headquarters from Singapore to the United States.
Broadcom Chief Executive Officer Hock Tan told reporters last week, “America is again the best place to lead a business with a global footprint. Thanks to you Mr. President, business conditions have steadily improved.”
There is much speculation that the move has occurred to make its potential deal with Qualcomm more likely to receive regulatory approval if Broadcom is based in the United States — and with President Trump on Broadcom’s side.
Antitrust approval in the United States remains a real concern, though. Just earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission, one of the two regulatory bodies for competition in the U.S., brought charges against Qualcomm, accusing the company of taking advantage of its monopoly in certain phone chips by charging excessive rates to customers like Apple. Qualcomm faces similar regulatory scrutiny in other countries, as well.
Qualcomm is also awaiting regulatory approval of its proposed $47 billion acquisition of NXP Semiconductors, another big name in the mobile chip industry. Broadcom has said it will pursue the Qualcomm deal with or without the NXP deal.
Some tech insiders are already skeptical of the impact the Broadcom deal could have on competition and innovation in the chip manufacturing industry.
“Qualcomm is innovating, hard. It’s pushing down into chipsets for feature phones and “smart things,” and up into core technologies for 5G. It’s developed a tiny antenna, which might be the way to put 5G into phones, and IR dot-projector camera setups that can mimic Apple’s Face ID on Android devices… A Broadcom-owned Qualcomm could be choked by cost-cutting and revenue optimization, and its staff scattered to the winds. I know which one I’d rather see,” PCMag’s Sascha Segan said in an opinion piece today.
If a deal were to be struck though, the combined firm would be in an incredibly powerful position in selling wireless communications chips for mobile devices with increased pressure on Intel, which has been dominant in the space in the past. The combined company’s products would impact almost every smartphone in the world, Apple or Android.