Is Seeing Machines a takeover target?

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Seeing Machines interims yesterday were slightly disappointing in so far as Fleet sales have yet to take off, although they are progressing.

I’m not going to rehash the numbers here, except to say that with nearly A$40m in cash it isn’t in any immediate danger of needing a fundraise to fund the further development of Fovio.

My hope is that the V2 version of Guardian which apparently costs around US$625 vs US$1000, together with Mix Telematics’ product incorporating the integrated SEE system should boost Fleet sales. I anticipate both will be ready within 3-6 months.

Still, I could be wrong about the timeframes and therein lies the risk. Although the spending on Fovio is capable of being scaled back SEE is trying to grab OEM automotive market share in the hottest sector of the automotive market. The funding to cover this is intended to come from Fleet and Mining sales.

Only if Fleet doesn’t scale up and make a substantial contribution, might SEE require a further fundraise before it reaches profitability — unless it chose to scale back spending on Fovio.

That said, I don’t expect this will happen. I believe that an imminent deal with Progress Rail, along the lines of the it struck with Caterpillar should provide short term funding to avoid even the slight risk that they might need to raise more money further down the line, before it becomes profitable.

That a deal with Progress is close at hand was confirmed in the interim statement yesterday, when SEE stated: “The company is in final negotiation stage for a global agreement with Progress Rail. We expect an agreement to be in place during 2017.”

Lorne Daniels

Analyst Lorne Daniels, in a note issued yesterday from house broker finnCap, reduced his sales estimates for Financial Year (FY) 2017 to A$13.4m with a pre-tax loss of A$33m, with estimated sales of A$52m for FY2018 and a pre-tax loss of A$17.3m. Only in FY 2019 is SEE forecast to deliver a pre-tax profit of A$2.8m on sales of A$117.8m.

I’d urge caution on the numbers as there are a lot of unknowns, but the direction of travel is clear.

More importantly, I think investors need to appreciate the bigger picture here, as Lorne Daniels eloquently stated:

“The struggle with Fleet sales is disappointing but solvable and should not detract from the overall focus on the goal Seeing Machines is working towards. While new competitors like Tobii, SmartEye and EyeTech are seeking entry to the market, Seeing Machines remains well ahead in terms of product development, routes to market, experience and proof of success in the field; already deployed in thousands of mining vehicles where its rivals can point to no real-world use at all. Seeing Machines is deliberately investing heavily to capitalise on its leadership by deploying its cheap and easy to adopt SiP solution. This will entrench its market leadership across a wide range of operator monitoring markets but primarily that huge automotive market.”

Nevertheless, as SEE’s share price languishes at a pitiful 3.5p, despite all the progress made in a variety of end markets, the company is easy prey for a speculative offer.

Indeed, given the recent purchase of Mobileye for $15bn by Intel, you have to wonder how long it will be before one of the big players (perhaps Google, Apple?) will make Seeing Machines an offer they can’t refuse.

Lorne Daniel estimates that applying the 42x sales multiple (on which the Intel bid for Mobileye was based) to Seeing Machines’ 2017 sales forecast provides a valuation of A$563m (£353m) or 24p a share.

I’m sure that would satisfy many private investors frustrated at the current share price. And yet…apply that to the projected sales for only one year later in 2018 and you end up with A$2184m (£1,370m) or 92p a share.

In my view, a little more patience is required while realising that investing isn’t risk free.

The writer holds stock in Seeing Machines.

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