Dec 13 (Reuters) - Qualcomm Inc said Chief Operating Officer Steve Mollenkopf, touted as a possible candidate for the top job at Microsoft Corp, will become the chipmaker's CEO in March, replacing Paul Jacobs who becomes executive chairman.
The surprise announcement comes a day after Bloomberg News reported that Microsoft has been considering Mollenkopf as a candidate to replace retiring CEO Steve Ballmer.
However, Argus Research analyst Jim Kelleher said he did not think the prospect that Mollenkopf might be poached by Microsoft was a factor in the timing of the appointment.
The choice of the two-decade company veteran ensured continuity at the top of Qualcomm, analysts said.
"We believe that Mollenkopf had effectively been running the day-to-day operations of the company, so we don't expect daily operations to change materially, JPMorgan analyst Rod Hall said in an email.
Qualcomm shares were up 0.6 percent at $73.14 in early trading on the Nasdaq. Microsoft shares were down 0.6 percent at $36.99.
While most of Qualcomm's revenue comes from chips that allow phones to communicate with carrier networks, most of its profit comes from licensing patents for its CDMA cellphone technology.
Mollenkopf, an engineer in his mid 40s, will replace Jacobs on March 4, after the annual shareholder meeting.
Jacobs, 51, has been CEO since 2005, taking over from his father Irwin who co-founded Qualcomm in 1985.
Kelleher said Jacobs' move to the chairman's role was in keeping with the trend among tech companies such as Broadcom Corp and Juniper Networks Inc, where founders or members of the founding family have moved away from the CEO role to become strategic leaders or visionaries.
Mollenkopf led Qualcomm in its $3.1 billion acquisition of radio frequency chipmaker Atheros Communications Inc in 2011, its biggest acquisition.