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TheStreet Open House

Marvell's a Winter Flop, Summer Flip

Editor's note: Jim Cramer told viewers of his "Mad Money" TV show on Tuesday that Intuitive Surgical (ISRG) and Potash (POT) are two ugly ducklings set to become beautiful swans. Here's another stock with those same characteristics.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- At the beginning of the year, chip giant Marvell (MRVL), which had dropped by more than 50% in 2012, was on my short list of ugly duckling companies that I felt could turn into swans. Not only did I sense that Marvell had been punished enough, but I felt -- with a little stroke of luck -- the stock could post unsuspecting gains.

Winter Flop, Summer Flip
MRVL Chart MRVL data by YCharts

I figured, how much worse could things get? Since the clock struck midnight into 2013, this strategy has worked to perfection. Not only have shares of Marvell been up by as much as 63% on the year, but since the stock bottomed at $6.98 in December, Marvell is up closer to 70%. Now, investors are wondering how much better can things get?

That's the right question to ask, because this company is anything but a flawless operation.

I'm not suggesting that Marvell's direction is all downhill from here. But I do worry that investors who are risking additional gains from this level may get burned. Worse, they may end up roasting themselves.

Marvell's situation has many layers. Not only has the company been plagued by litigation, including having to pay $1.17 billion to Carnegie Mellon in a patent suit, but it has also been left behind by the likes of Qualcomm (QCOM) and Broadcom (BRCM), which have chipped away at Marvell's strength in areas like mobile and wireless.

To complicate matters, in Marvell's core storage market, although the company is doing well, rivals such as LSI (LSI) are ramping up products to stunt Marvell's turnaround potential. And I haven't even mentioned the uphill battle Marvell faces in areas like network processing, where (among others) Cisco (CSCO) is a force.

While these commercial clashes are going on, management still has to hold the pieces together in court battles. In that regard, it's remarkable that the company nevertheless managed to post decent results in its fiscal first quarter -- relatively speaking. Although revenue declined 8% year-over-year, it still managed to beat Street estimates by almost 2%. But it wasn't all good news.

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