Monday, May 24, 2010

Marvell Profits from R&D

In most of the computer and electronics industry the 3rd and 4th quarters are hot. Then Q1, and Q2 are seasonally down. Not that much is selling; inventory is being built for back-to-school, then for the consumer holiday spree and and-of-year corporate buying. This year so far is trending a bit different for many electronic parts suppliers because of the rapid recovery from the 2009 business panic. Judging from its quarter ending May 1, 2010 (its first fiscal quarter of 2011), Marvell Technology Group (MRVL) is benefitting from more than just industry trends.

Marvell first came to dominate the hard drive semiconductor chip industry, and those chips still account for over half of Marvell's revenue. Marvell engineers lead in combining analog and digital chip functions, so we are seeing market penetration in areas where this is an advantage. So far this has been in wired and wireless networking chips and in cell phones, particularly in smartphones. Marvell makes chips for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, for the wireless signal that connects to cell towers, and for application processors that give the phones their ability to act like computers. While its entry into this market is relatively recent, it is already a major player.

In Q1 Revenue was $856 million, up 2% sequentially from $842.5 million and up 64% from $521 million in the year-earlier quarter. The mobile and wireless end market accounted for about 22% of revenue, so about $188 million. The segment grew 18% sequentially, and that despite Wi-Fi chips "only" growing 6% sequentially.

What is most likely to happen in the next few quarters is that wired networking and storage chips will do their usual annual ramp based on demand, plus any market share gain. Smartphone revenue will continue its explosive growth as a larger number of phones using Marvell's chips are brought to market. And the ramp will include chips for oPhones in China, which by 2011 should, by themselves, be a major source of revenue for Marvell.

In a normal market, Marvell would have a high PE ratio because of its track record and future prospects. But this is no normal market. It is a fear-driven, better a 0% treasury than a 8% stock market. It's pretty weird. Who knows, maybe the world will end and we will sink into an economic depression. But I have news for you. In that case, U.S. treasuries will be as worthless as stocks, because there will be no way the government can raise enough in taxes to cover interest payments.

I own Marvell stock to my portfolio rules limit. I could be wrong, maybe a competitor or two will best Marvell in some segment of the market, but I believe the most probable outlook is that in a few years everyone will wish they had bought Marvell in 2009 or the spring of 2010.

That's my opinion. You can also get the facts, as management presents them, by reading my Marvell MRVL analyst conference summaries.

And of course see also

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