China Identifies Eight Top U.S. Tech Giants as Potential Security Threats

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The technology sector is feeling the effects of U.S./Chinese tensions over cybersecurity. In a new research report, the Piper Jaffray Technology team highlighted the eight top U.S. technology companies that it believes are considered to be a potential security threat in China. The combination of Huawei being blocked from doing business in the United States and the Snowden whistleblower affair are having an impact on U.S. tech companies’ prospects in China. China’s state-run media identified eight U.S. companies as being potential security threats.

We thought that it was important for our readers to see just who the Chinese are worried about. The real danger may lie for the tech companies in the chip business. The analysts at Piper Jaffray believe there is a national industrial policy in place in China to build a domestic semiconductor industry. Within the government’s current five-year plan there is $50 billion earmarked for development of a domestic semiconductor industry.

Here are the eight top U.S. technology companies that are considered to be a potential security threat in China.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) is a surprise member of the list as it reportedly just signed a gigantic new deal with China Mobile to sell smartphones and tablets there. The Chinese market has more than doubled in size in the past two years, and it still has a low penetration rate. Investors are paid a 2.3% dividend, which may go higher in 2014. The Thomson/First Call price target for the stock is $597.50. Apple closed Tuesday at $565.55.

Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) is another top tech name the Chinese are wary of. While the network giant is not a chip threat, they do a significant amount of business in Asia, and a slowdown in Chinese orders would not be a positive. Cisco’s tepid forward guidance during last month’s earnings call has not helped the stock price, and CEO John Chambers brought up this issue. Investors receive a very solid 3.2% dividend. The consensus price target for the stock is $25. Cisco closed Tuesday at $21.21.

Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) is one of the companies that signed an open letter Monday urging the U.S. to curb the use of technology for surveillance. The Piper Jaffray analysts believe that this is more evidence that the NSA is having a commercial impact on technology companies here and abroad. Google already has a very tense relationship with China, to the point that “relationship” may even be a stretch. The consensus price target for the Internet giant is $1,100. Google closed Tuesday at $1,084.66.

International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM) may also be another solid tech name for investors for 2014, but they are also on the Chinese security threat list. A disappointing third-quarter earnings letdown has shaved almost 12% off the stock price since mid-September. Any increase in capital spending next year could quickly fire up the earnings engine again for the services giant. Investors are paid a 2.1% dividend, and the consensus price target for the stock is posted at $190. IBM closed Tuesday at $177.12.

Intel Inc. (NASDAQ: INTC) is listed as a security threat, and it is also in the line of fire when it comes to the Chinese chip ambitions. The chip giant may be well-served by helping the Chinese fulfill some of their plans. Intel pays shareholders a very nice 3.8% dividend. The consensus price target for the stock is posted at $24, but Intel closed Tuesday at $24.82.

Microsoft Corp. NASDAQ: MSFT) was another company that signed the open letter about NSA surveillance. The company was a recent addition to the UBS Dividend Rulers list of stocks to buy. Investors are paid a very solid 3% dividend. The consensus price estimate for the stock is at $36, but Microsoft closed Tuesday at $38.11.

Oracle Corp. (NASDAQ: ORCL) is not only on the list, but it is in the middle of appealing a negative verdict against it in a suit against Google. The case was initially largely dismissed. In fact, Oracle ended up having to reimburse Google for a million bucks in legal fees. Now, it seems that Oracle is being rather aggressive in appealing this decision and extracting what it feels it is due from Google. But the question is, does Oracle really have a case here? Investors are paid a 1.4% dividend. The consensus price target is placed at $37. Oracle closed Tuesday at $34.80.

Qualcomm Inc. (NASDAQ: QCOM) is a company with a large exposure to China. So it is probably not very positive that China’s National Development and Reform Commission is investigating the company under its anti-monopoly laws. The maker of smartphone chips pays shareholders a 1.9% dividend. The consensus price target for the stock is $80. Qualcomm closed Tuesday at $73.38.

The Chinese have been known in the past for bellicose and provocative international behavior. The bottom line for investors is the Chinese may stomp their feet some, but they have to maintain a sense of fairness with the United States as we are a huge trading partner. The last thing the Chinese want is a broad-based trade war that includes tariffs on Chinese products. So this may be more bark than bite.

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