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Lacklustre Performance Is Driving QUALCOMM Incorporated's (NASDAQ:QCOM) Low P/E

When close to half the companies in the United States have price-to-earnings ratios (or "P/E's") above 15x, you may consider QUALCOMM Incorporated (NASDAQ:QCOM) as an attractive investment with its 10.3x P/E ratio. Nonetheless, we'd need to dig a little deeper to determine if there is a rational basis for the reduced P/E.

Recent times have been advantageous for QUALCOMM as its earnings have been rising faster than most other companies. One possibility is that the P/E is low because investors think this strong earnings performance might be less impressive moving forward. If you like the company, you'd be hoping this isn't the case so that you could potentially pick up some stock while it's out of favour.

Check out our latest analysis for QUALCOMM

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Want the full picture on analyst estimates for the company? Then our free report on QUALCOMM will help you uncover what's on the horizon.

What Are Growth Metrics Telling Us About The Low P/E?

In order to justify its P/E ratio, QUALCOMM would need to produce sluggish growth that's trailing the market.

Retrospectively, the last year delivered an exceptional 45% gain to the company's bottom line. The strong recent performance means it was also able to grow EPS by 220% in total over the last three years. Therefore, it's fair to say the earnings growth recently has been superb for the company.

Shifting to the future, estimates from the analysts covering the company suggest earnings growth is heading into negative territory, declining 4.5% each year over the next three years. That's not great when the rest of the market is expected to grow by 9.0% per annum.

With this information, we are not surprised that QUALCOMM is trading at a P/E lower than the market. However, shrinking earnings are unlikely to lead to a stable P/E over the longer term. Even just maintaining these prices could be difficult to achieve as the weak outlook is weighing down the shares.

The Final Word

Generally, our preference is to limit the use of the price-to-earnings ratio to establishing what the market thinks about the overall health of a company.

As we suspected, our examination of QUALCOMM's analyst forecasts revealed that its outlook for shrinking earnings is contributing to its low P/E. Right now shareholders are accepting the low P/E as they concede future earnings probably won't provide any pleasant surprises. It's hard to see the share price rising strongly in the near future under these circumstances.

It's always necessary to consider the ever-present spectre of investment risk. We've identified 3 warning signs with QUALCOMM (at least 2 which are a bit unpleasant), and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

If P/E ratios interest you, you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly and trade on P/E's below 20x.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.

This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.

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