Seeing Machines making progress

Seeing Machines produced a positive trading update today and I firmly believe that this company is very undervalued at its current price of 3.25p.

What was lacking was hard detail on contracts won in fleet and more detail on its share of the auto spin-off. Yet, if only half of the fleet trials convert and the auto spin-off goes ahead smoothly it should multi-bag by Christmas.

The company is making great strides, communication as to how well it is doing is increasing and I’m confident that positive news flow will drive the share price forward to reflect the growth in business.

Some of the following update is based on a very recent, exclusive interview with CEO Ken Kroeger. In it he was at pains to stress that he’s going to be making a big effort keeping investors informed about developments. For example, Seeing Machines is in the process of revamping its website and he explained: “What I am trying to do is create an ongoing, regular conversation with investors through our website. The Seeing Machines website will become the portal for investors and if they want to drill down into the companies they can.”

He’s slightly hamstrung by the fact that trials of such an innovative product take time to convert and confidentiality is an issue that often prevents disclosure.

I can see that the company is light years ahead of where it was only 3 years ago. It is now converting its computer vision based IP into commercial product and starting to promote these product brands/companies: CAT, Guardian, Auto, Nucoria etc.

Yet, that is probably of scant consolation for shareholders who have seen the share price sink over the past few months.

From my most recent conversation with him and today’s RNS, I’ve put together the following:

Caterpillar

As the update explains, here Seeing Machines is moving “from a low-volume, high-value hardware business to an annuity and licensing-based revenue, high volume, lower unit cost product business model. Aside from the A$21.85m one-off Caterpillar licence fee that will boost revenues for the current financial year, there should also be recurring and growing revenues from product and services. These amounted to US$420,000 from Jan-March 2016 and are expected to grow in the quarter from April-June 2016.

That said, excluding the one-off revenue for this financial year Seeing Machines expects “other sales and service revenue to be lower than the last full year.”

Fleet

This product became available to customers in September 2015, without a formal launch and minimal marketing. The salesforce, comprising mining experts, eventually had to be replaced by road transport experts.

Since then, it has formally launched an improved product (with front facing camera) at mining shows: 3 in the US and 2 in Australia under the ‘Guardian’ brand.

Following the launch of Guardian, it has built up a very solid pipeline of product assessments with potential customers, “over 30 around the world” according to Kroeger.

To give some idea of the volumes he’s talking about he added: “If we successfully converted all of those assessments we’d probably have somewhere around 120,000 – 150,000 vehicles in those fleets.” Moreover, some of them are apparently very big companies.

While he doesn’t expect a 100% conversion rate, he did reveal that these assessments are going “really well”. In addition, Caterpillar has also made its first fleet sale.

Kroeger also explained: “We are currently designing the second generation solution, again, with VSI and other external expertise. It will be lower cost and modular in design so that it can be sold as a complete stand-alone solution as it is now or it sold as a companion or add-on to an existing telematics solution by only using some of the module (camera, HMI, image processing and not the geo-positioning or telecommunications elements that could be present in an already-installed telematics service); again being lower cost as result.

“The logic in this approach is that we are working with large telematics companies to provide them an affordable technology that they can sell to their customers in high-volume at the lowest possible cost while still providing a direct to market, Guardian solution that is affordable to operators that require the complete technology solution due to not having a telematics solution in their vehicles or where the telematics solution is not compatible with ours. The telematics suppliers are seeing a lot of consolidation and are looking for means of differentiation. Our discussion with them are focused on turing them into  an additional, high volume, channel to market with their existing customers.”

For those seeking names, Kroeger added that he was currently working with 2 global telematics companies (“with over 1m connected trucks combined”) and that, if possible, he’d hope to provide more detail in the next Fleet update — which I expect to be in a couple of weeks.

Naturally, investors may be frustrated that he can’t put those names out immediately. Still, if he says it is happening you can be certain it is. What he can’t control is the marketing sensibilities of huge multinationals that prefer to be named at a time of their choosing.

There’s also been progress in Auto, Aerospace and Rail but I don’t have much to add to the RNS.

Understandably, the lack of detail is a frustration, made harder to bear by the downward moves in the share price. However, I’m very confident that continued patience on the part of investors will be amply rewarded over the next few months.

Of course, there is no substitute for your own research and investors should always take care not to invest more than they can afford to have tied up for a year.

The writer holds stock in Seeing Machines.

Seeing Machines confirms auto spin-off by end of June

In an exclusive interview today,  Seeing Machines’ CEO Ken Kroeger confirmed to me that the innovative developer of eye-tracking technology is on-track for the launch of an spin-off company by the end of June this year, raising between US$60-100m

“We’re trying to close the finance by mid-June. We’re expecting it may slip a little bit but we’re pretty far advanced and have made an offer to the CEO; we’re starting to structure an org chart and plan what the business looks like as it moves beyond this organisation.”

The new entity will employ around 70 people (some part-time), there are likely to be a total of 5 board members including the CEO, with one representative from Seeing Machines on the board.

Kroeger couldn’t reveal who the cornerstone investor is nor the exact percentage stake that Seeing Machines would hold, saying in today’s announcement only that it would retain a “significant equity stake” in the new company.

From my own research, I’d guess that the cornerstone investor, described as a “US-based investment firm with extensive experience in automotive technologies” in today’s announcement, is likely to be GM Ventures. As to the other investors, I’m less sure.

Still, Ken Kroeger confirmed that all will be revealed quite soon: “Within the next 4-6 weeks we should be able to start telling people who these organisations are, how much we own, how much we will own.”

There are two be 2 rounds of investment plus an employee share option scheme and he’s been looking at what the market cap table will look like through those different phases. The initial round of investment will be followed by one further investment 2 years down the line.

“I think we’ve shaped the investment strategy to put us in front of the sorts of organisations we would want as partners and that there is  an expectation that they have the same objectives. So we’ve been looking for people that are strategically aligned in order to make sure that this goes to plan,” he added.

Kroeger also confirmed that a lot of the recent selling has been by an Australian Superannuation fund (Dixons Advisory), an original investor in Seeing Machines’ IPO that until recently held an 8% stake. Apparently, holders had been advised to sell as the shares were converting from paper to electronic versions.

It certainly seems like an odd time to be selling out of a company making great strides in one of the hottest sectors in automotive.

As this is overhang is cleared, good news flow should propel Seeing Machines’ share price much higher over the next few months.

Incidentally, Kroeger revealed that the company, anxious to keep investors better informed, will also be launching a new investor-focused website in around 7 weeks.

The writer holds stock in Seeing Machines