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Why Marvell Technology Group Ltd. Fell 22% on Friday

By Anders Bylund - Sep 11, 2015 at 1:19PM

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Disappointing preliminary results on top of internal reviews of accounting practices and bad internal communication? Ouch.

What: Shares of Marvell Technology (MRVL 2.98%) fell as much as 22% on Friday morning. Just before the opening bell, the semiconductor and software designer published preliminary second-quarter results. The results fell far short of analyst expectations, and the company also announced an internal investigation of its own accounting practices.

So what: For the second quarter, Wall Street analysts were looking for earnings of $0.11 per share on roughly $722 million in sales. Instead, the preliminary report showed a net loss of $0.74 per share on sales of $711 million. Then there's the audit committee's accounting investigation, looking at the company's financial reporting controls and potentially sloppy revenue recording practices.

Now what: The revenue shortfall in the second quarter is directly related to Marvell's accounting investigation. Among other things, the committee is looking closely at roughly 8% of this quarter's sales falling in the third quarter's reporting period. So far, the investigators led by audit committee chair Joergen Gromer haven't found any improprieties here, although the move points to weak demand for some of Marvell's storage controller products.

The greater long-term worry comes from a deep look at the senior management team's operating style. A reported lack of communication from Marvell's corner offices has led to a delay in putting this quarter's proper financial reports together, and prompted the committee to look at "whether senior management's operating style resulted in an open flow of information and communication to set an appropriate tone for an effective control environment."

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

Whether or not this investigation leads to any SEC-ordered reparations or not, this could very well be the first step toward an overhaul of Marvell's executive team. Gromer, by the way, is bringing some very appropriate experience to the table, having served as president of Tyco Electronics when that company worked through its own disastrous accounting scandal a decade ago.

I'm not saying that Marvell is the next Tyco-style scandal story, but I do smell the winds of change blowing through its Santa Clara headquarters. The stock set brand new multiyear lows on Friday, and for good reason.

Will the company climb out of this black hole? Only time will tell, as Marvell's board committee works through this tangled web to uncover the company's true operating nature. And if they decide to give current executives the boot, they'd certainly be doing it over founder, CEO, and chairman Sehat Sutardja's protests. In the meantime, one analyst called the stock "unownable." So stay tuned.

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Marvell Technology Group Ltd.
$53.96 (2.98%) $1.56

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