Goldman Sachs analyst Mark Delaney recently upgraded shares of chipmaker Marvell Technology (NASDAQ:MRVL) from Sell to Neutral (via Benzinga), and boosted his price target from $12 to $14. This is hardly a ringing endorsement for the purchase of Marvell's shares, though -- particularly considering that they trade for more than $14 apiece as of this writing.
Delaney now indicates that the negative drivers that investors might have been expecting have "already materialized." These risks reportedly included ASP and market-share erosion in mobile chips, a hit to hard-disk-drive controllers as PC vendors lowered channel inventory, and a decline in Marvell's solid-state drive-controller share.
Because the analyst community has significantly reduced earnings expectations for Marvell during fiscal year 2016, Delaney believes that consensus estimates are now more realistic, according to Benzinga. He also believes investors will turn their focus to two key factors.
Marvell's money-losing baseband adventure
Delaney estimates that Marvell is currently driving losses of between $0.20 and $0.40 per share in its baseband business. If the company is able to sell the business, or simply chooses to wind it down, this is widely expected to help improve Marvell's overall corporate profitability.
It doesn't sound like Marvell is particularly interested in a wind-down. During the company's most recent earnings call, CEO Sehat Sutardja said that the company will "continue to be open to any strategic opportunities that come in front of [the company]." However, he continued by saying that, "in the meantime, [Marvell] will continue to build even better, even more advanced technology to make it even more attractive for our customers to use our products."
These comments suggest that a sale of the division to another company is the only "option" that Marvell would seriously consider. That said, I wouldn't be shocked if Sutardja were simply posturing in order not to discourage the company's current employee base.
After all, if the CEO of the company that you're working for states on a public investor call that the division that you're working in might wind down, wouldn't you be inclined to seek employment elsewhere?
The Carnegie Mellon litigation
Back in 2012, Marvell lost a patent infringement lawsuit to Carnegie Mellon University. CMU alleged -- and a jury found -- that Marvell had willfully infringed upon patents held by CMU. CMU was then awarded a gargantuan $1.17 billion in damages.
Then, last year, U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer tacked on a cool $79 million "to reflect damages incurred since the jury's judgement." And to make matters worse, she added another $287 million "to punish Marvell for willfully infringing," according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
Delaney mentioned that Marvell's appeal of this lawsuit is the second area that investors will be watching closely. If the company is unsuccessful in appealing this decision, that might have an adverse effect on Marvell's stock. Conversely, if Marvell doesn't have to pay up -- or if the damages that Marvell ultimately winds up paying are substantially lower -- then that could lead to a sense of "relief" among investors.
It seems to me that one way or another, the ultimate outcome of the CMU appeal will be a big deal to Marvell investors.