Magna-ificent performance from Seeing Machines

Following recent announcements relating to Magna, reinforced by analysis from CEO Paul McGlone at an investor event in London, I’m confident that Seeing Machines’ technology lead across, auto, fleet and aviation will soon start to be reflected in its share price.

The recent news that auto Tier 1 Magna is paying US$17.5m for the exclusive rights to use Seeing Machines technology in its rearview mirrors until the end of 2025, while also agreeing to invest up to an additional US$47.5m, just confirms its global leadership position in Driver and Occupant Monitoring Systems (DOMS). 

Crucially, the cash injection removes any concerns that Seeing Machines needs to raise cash. It is now fully funded to profitability in 2024.

The Canadian Tier 1 Magna has gone exclusive with Seeing Machines in rearview mirrors because it aims to the vast majority of that market, 100% has been suggested by one expert, as no real rival to their DOMS offering currently exists. By partnering with Seeing Machines it has a product that is apparently superior to that of its competitors in terms of price, performance, and time to market. That’s presumably why it won the huge A$125m VW contract in December 2021. 

By 2026, it’s likely that Magna will have won as much as 50% of the overall auto DOMS market in partnership with Seeing Machines – since half of DOMS is forecast to be delivered via rearview mirrors. Thus it will have done to its main rival Gentex what Qualcomm has done to Intel in auto. The huge VW win with Magna should have confirmed this, future wins certainly will. 

It’s no coincidence that both Magna and Qualcomm have chosen to partner exclusively with Seeing Machines. These moves should be seen as part of a strategic land grab that I expect to deliver Seeing Machines at least 75% of the auto DOMS market by volume by 2026.

That is because its competitors (Smart Eye, Cipia, and Jungo) aren’t winning anywhere near the number or volume of RFQs that Seeing Machines is. For example, Smart Eye appears to have effectively been replaced by Seeing Machines in forthcoming BMW models. The 10 BMW models featuring Smart Eye technology are from past wins, such as the X5 (2015) and M8 (2018). 

Of course, OEMs may do some dual sourcing. Speaking to Smart Eye last week its CEO Martin Krantz tentatively said that Smart Eye “will probably be in future BMWs”. I wish him luck but I don’t think it is going to be a threat to Seeing Machines going forward. 

Indeed, investors need to beware of looking in the rearview mirror at market share unless they want to crash their prospects for significant financial gains. For those paying attention to the road ahead, it’s Seeing Machines that is in the fast lane to market dominance. 

Over the past year, Seeing Machines states that it has won 80% of the RFQs for which it has bid. I’m confident it will maintain that win rate with the $A1-2 billion of contracts for which it is currently bidding.

Looking at design wins, Smart Eye currently boasts 94, while Seeing Machines has 120. However, even this figure fails to reflect the latter’s dominance. Not all of Smart Eye’s 94 ‘wins’ made it into production, in contrast, every Seeing Machines design win has hit the road. 

I’ve long admired the Smart Eye people – not least for their PR bravado – but it can’t blind me as to where I should invest my hard-earned dough. I’d also be doing readers a disservice if I didn’t state what I honestly believe. 

Following the Seeing Machines investor presentation Friday, (when the video is posted I will provide a link) I’m very confident that an inflection point has been reached.

Increased margins

From now on license revenues for vehicles hitting the roads will begin to ramp up for Seeing Machines. This is a very high-margin business as the main costs have already been borne in the development phase. It currently has a pipeline of A$395m in auto but this is expected to grow substantially over the next few years on the back of further wins.

Similarly, in aftermarket more large enterprise customers such as Shell are coming along. These margins for selling the product and the monitoring service are much higher than selling indirectly via distributors.

It should also be noted that Seeing Machines Gen 3 Guardian will be launched by the end of this financial year, opening up the prospect of huge scale-up in Fleet sales. The product has apparently been re-engineered to reduce costs yet will be better, with automotive-grade additions and much faster install times. In addition, there is huge money to be made from the service element of monitoring the drivers.

Thus, now there is clear visibility of increasing revenues and cashflows with SEE set to make huge profits over the next few years.

In addition, I’m still confident that a lucrative license deal will soon be struck to deliver See’s pilot monitoring technology into the cockpits of aircraft. Being early is the same as being wrong but I hope by Christmas I’m proven right.

Bids coming

As readers know, I’ve long believed that SEE will face a near-term bid. To that view some have argued that such is its success that it really doesn’t need a takeover to prosper, unlike some of its rivals who hope to be saved by one. I’d certainly agree with the assessment that Seeing Machines could perfectly well prosper as an independent.

However, even if Seeing Machines isn’t ‘up for sale’, it doesn’t mean that it cannot be bought. A wise man recently told me: ‘Great companies get bought NOT sold’. Well, I believe Seeing Machines is a great company.

Ask yourself, how badly must some company want what Seeing Machines has? Its technological lead, data, and market leadership would take years and many billions to replicate for even a company of the stature of Google, Apple, or Amazon. If you had the money (and they do) why wouldn’t you just buy it?

If Magna is prepared to pay millions for the exclusive use of SEE technology for a couple of years, why wouldn’t they want it permanently? Qualcomm, AMD, Intel, and Nvidia also have reasons to enter a bidding war when the starting gun is fired. Indeed, even Gentex does if it wants to win future DOMS rear-view mirror contracts and protect its market share from rivals such as Magna.

There’s even the argument that a consolidator might want Cerence and Seeing Machines to create something very special.

Value stock

As legendary value investor Irving Kahn taught, investing is an art rather than a science but I think were he alive today, he’d take an interest in Seeing Machines as it ticks many of the criteria he looked for in an investment.

The good news for investors is that they can now sit back and enjoy the ride. It has been substantially de-risked, which is why Cenkos upgraded to 25p last week. I expect the other analysts following the company to do likewise in short order as the contracts and license deals roll in. 

The writer holds stock in Seeing Machines.

Remain positive on Seeing Machines

This is just a short note to say that, despite the current shareprice being very much in the doldrums I remain positive on Seeing Machines as a business and investment.

It is the global leader in driver/occupant monitoring and, while I’m frustrated at the lack of news recently, I am confident more good news is coming. How can it not? Manufacturers of cars, buses and lorries are going to have to install driver monitoring in Europe from 2024. Given lead times, they have to make decisions now as to who to use. This process is also being replicated in the US, China and Japan.

Seeing Machines is already benefitting from this trend in partnership with many large players, such as Qualcomm and Magna.

In addition, I believe a behemoth will bid for Seeing Machines. Most likely a chip company but others are also in the frame if a bidding war breaks out.

Of course, you should make your investment decisions based on your own research. I have been wrong before and undoubtedly will be again. Only investing what you can afford to have tied up for a while is a good rule.

I look forward to meeting some of you at the investor event in London on Friday, 7th October.

The writer holds stock in Seeing Machines.