SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Shares of wireless network firm Qualcomm Inc. fell to a 52-week low Friday after a research firm criticized the company's accounting practices.

Qualcomm issued a statement challenging the firm's conclusions, helping the shares rebound somewhat from their earlier lows. Qualcomm shares fell as low as $34.59, but closed down just $1.65, or 5 percent, at $37.24 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

The Center for Financial Research and Analysis, based in Rockville, Md., asserted that Qualcomm did not adequately report that it was recording as revenue the shares it received in exchange for investing in start-up technology firms.

In its report, the research firm also claimed a potential conflict of interest existed between one or two Qualcomm executives who previously worked at an accounting firm that has done auditing for the San Diego-based company.

Howard Schilit, president of the independent research firm, did not immediately return a phone call or e-mail from The Associated Press seeking comment on the report. Its findings were reported by Dow Jones Newswires.

In its response, Qualcomm said it disclosed in corporate filings last year that it was recording equity in the start-ups as revenue. The company said it received $20 million in fiscal 2001 in the form of equity and recorded it as about $7 million of its $2.7 billion in revenues for that year.

Qualcomm received the equity in the start-ups in exchange for waiving licensing fees for its technology, something it did in hopes of expanding the use of its patented technology.

The company also acknowledged that the chairman of its auditing committee, Duane Nelles, and chief operating and financial officer, Tony Thornley, previously worked for Coopers & Lybrand, an accounting firm now called PriceWaterhouseCoopers that audits Qualcomm.

But the company said it has been ``vigilant'' against potential conflicts of interest and Thornley left Coopers & Lybrand 25 years ago and Nelles retired from the firm in 1986 _ two years before he joined Qualcomm's board of directors.

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