Should You Buy Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (NASDAQ:MRVL) For Its Dividend?

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Could Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (NASDAQ:MRVL) be an attractive dividend share to own for the long haul? Investors are often drawn to strong companies with the idea of reinvesting the dividends. Yet sometimes, investors buy a popular dividend stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.

With a 1.0% yield and a seven-year payment history, investors probably think Marvell Technology Group looks like a reliable dividend stock. A low yield is generally a turn-off, but if the prospects for earnings growth were strong, investors might be pleasantly surprised by the long-term results. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 0.6% of the company's market capitalisation at the time. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Marvell Technology Group for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Marvell Technology Group!

NasdaqGS:MRVL Historical Dividend Yield, June 12th 2019

Payout ratios

Dividends are usually paid out of company earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. As a result, we should always investigate whether a company can afford its dividend, measured as a percentage of a company's net income after tax. While Marvell Technology Group pays a dividend, it reported a loss over the last year. When a company is loss-making, we next need to check to see if its cash flows can support the dividend.

Of the free cash flow it generated last year, Marvell Technology Group paid out 27% as dividends, suggesting the dividend is affordable.

Is Marvell Technology Group's Balance Sheet Risky?

Given Marvell Technology Group is paying a dividend but reported a loss over the past year, we need to check its balance sheet for signs of financial distress. A quick way to check a company's financial situation uses these two ratios: net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and net interest cover. Net debt to EBITDA is a measure of a company's total debt. Net interest cover measures the ability to meet interest payments on debt. Essentially we check that a) a company does not have too much debt, and b) that it can afford to pay the interest. Marvell Technology Group has net debt of more than 3x its EBITDA, which is getting towards the limit of most investors' comfort zones. Judicious use of debt can enhance shareholder returns, but also adds to the risk if something goes awry.

Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company's net interest expense. Marvell Technology Group has interest cover of less than 1 - which suggests its earnings are not high enough to cover even the interest payments on its debt. This is potentially quite serious, and we would likely avoid the stock if it were not resolved quickly.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Marvell Technology Group's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.

Dividend Volatility

One of the major risks of relying on dividend income, is the potential for a company to struggle financially and cut its dividend. Not only is your income cut, but the value of your investment declines as well - nasty. Marvell Technology Group has been paying a dividend for the past seven years. The company has been paying a stable dividend for a while now, which is great. However we'd prefer to see consistency for a few more years before giving it our full seal of approval. Its most recent annual dividend was US$0.24 per share, effectively flat on its first payment seven years ago.

It's good to see at least some dividend growth. Yet with a relatively short dividend paying history, we wouldn't want to depend on this dividend too heavily.

Dividend Growth Potential

Examining whether the dividend is affordable and stable is important. However, it's also important to assess if earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Over the long term, dividends need to grow at or above the rate of inflation, in order to maintain the recipient's purchasing power. Marvell Technology Group's earnings per share have been essentially flat over the past five years. Flat earnings per share are acceptable for a time, but over the long term, the purchasing power of the company's dividends could be eroded by inflation.

Conclusion

Dividend investors should always want to know if a) a company's dividends are affordable, b) if there is a track record of consistent payments, and c) if the dividend is capable of growing. We're not keen on the fact that Marvell Technology Group paid dividends despite reporting a loss over the past year, although fortunately its dividend was covered by cash flow. Earnings per share are down, and to our mind Marvell Technology Group has not been paying a dividend long enough to demonstrate its resilience across economic cycles. In summary, Marvell Technology Group has a number of shortcomings that we'd find it hard to get past. Things could change, but we think there are a number of better ideas out there.

Given that earnings are not growing, the dividend does not look nearly so attractive. See if the 24 analysts are forecasting a turnaround in our free collection of analyst estimates here.

We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 3%.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.