Why Broadcom May Now Be Handily Overreaching in Its Hostile Buyout of Qualcomm

As of Monday, the valuations are massive in raw dollar terms. Qualcomm’s market cap is now $95 billion, versus $115 billion for the post-Avago merger culmination of Broadcom. And NXP Semiconductors has a market cap of over $38 billion today. Would regulators around the globe actually allow the combination of almost $250 billion worth of companies?

Again, is this merger effort now going above and beyond too far? Broadcom is feeling a surge after getting President Trump’s thanks for relocating to the United States. But there is a current merger risk in the market over whether companies are getting too big and powerful.

Wall Street analysts initially liked the thought of a Broadcom-Qualcomm merger, but there was still some skepticism that it would pass regulatory clearance. As a reminder, a merger of that size would not only have to pass clearance in the United States. It would likely have to pass multi-jurisdictional clearances in China, Europe and elsewhere.

This recent Broadcom offer for Qualcomm is further complicated by a recent activist shareholder of NXP to boost Qualcomm’s offer for the firm. Paul Singer, of Elliott Management, owns about 4.9% of NXP’s outstanding shares and is seeking that the offer be bumped up to $125 from $110 for NXP shares. After all, there has been a significant move higher in the semiconductor space at the same time that Qualcomm shares have floundered.

What happens if Qualcomm boosts its offer for NXP? Broadcom’s intent was that the price it was willing to pay is acceptable, but what if that view changes at a new offering price? In theory, it could be enough to make Broadcom walk away. Or it could make Broadcom fight even that much harder.

Wall Street is scratching its head on this situation. It is also taking place on a day where the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 have both hit new tax-enthused all-time highs. Unfortunately, the tech-heavy Nasdaq was down on Monday due to profit taking and some continued sector rotation.

And for one added wrench in this machine, Broadcom is slated to report earnings this week on Wednesday after the close of trading. Oppenheimer came out in favor of Broadcom ahead of earnings, raising its price target on Monday to $300 from $275. The firm said:

We expect a positive, and eventful call, with topics including the potential Qualcomm acquisition, recently closed Brocade purchase, iP8/X ramps, and core switching/routing… Net, we see 64%/45%/35% GM/OM/FCF margin profile driving a clear path toward $20 stand-alone/organic earnings per share. Qualcomm presents a significant upside call option, with combined company EPS power approaching $25 on conservative assumptions.

Broadcom stock closed Friday down about 2.3% at $271.56, but its shares were down another 1.65% at $267.10 in midday trading on Monday. Broadcom’s 52-week trading range is $162.40 to $285.68 and its consensus analyst price target from Thomson Reuters is $293.93.

Qualcomm shares closed down about 1.3% at $65.49 on Friday, followed by another 1.6% drop to $64.44 on Monday. The stock’s 52-week range is $48.92 to $70.42, and the consensus 12-month price target is $64.40.

NXP shares were up by more than $1.00 to $114.78 on Friday, but the stock was giving back more than half of those gains on Monday with its stock at $114.10 in the midday trading session. NXP Semiconductor has a 52-week range of $96.00 to $118.20, but most analysts have a consensus price target of closer to $112, based on merger prices.

Wall Street is not valuing this Broadcom-Qualcomm merger, at least at this exact time, with any major premium. And Broadcom has to keep in mind that there are many Qualcomm shareholders who are going to be adamant that Qualcomm shares should not be valued, in light of the 2016 and 2017 tech and market rally, at a penny less than the 2014 high when Qualcomm shares eclipsed $80 for a brief time.

Without having a seat inside the room during these communications and proposals, it’s hard to say that this is an outright overreach in the case of Broadcom. It’s also hard to not acknowledge that this is becoming perhaps the most hostile large, would-be technology merger in modern times.

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