$16.5m license deal for Seeing Machines with slight delay for Gen 3 ramp

Spread the love

Seeing Machines (AIM: SEE) surprised the market with a ‘good news-bad news’ RNS, that led to house broker Stifel reducing its price target to 13p, while still maintaining its ‘Buy’ recommendation.

The good news was that it has renewed its software license for its Guardian aftermarket product with Caterpillar. It appears that is has received a $16.5m upfront payment covering a period of 5 years.

Unfortunately, it was effectively overshadowed by the bad news; a statement that “cash EBITDA” was behind expectations, due to a slower transition to the Gen 3 product.

Stifel analyst Peter McNally doesn’t appear to be overly concerned by the Gen 3 delay, reducing revenue estimates by 7.1% and 6.0% for FY25/26. He also assumes a higher level of operating costs going forward resulting in his reported EBITDA estimates dropping from $14.3m in FY25E to $7.0m and cash EBITDA loss falling to $10.8m from $3.5m. With the benefit of the cash from Caterpillar, his FY25 gross cash estimate reduces by a smaller amount to $14.2m from $17.9m.

He wrote: 

“The cash EBITDA weakness has been due to a slower transition to Gen3 Aftermarket products, and we think this will have an effect on our forward estimates, which we adjust to reflect today. However, the company reiterates its guidance for FY25 cash flow run-rate breakeven and the payment from Caterpillar helps boost the company’s already healthy balance sheet.

As the company gets closer to cash flow breakeven, we think the shares will appeal to a much broader group of investors, which should have a beneficial effect on the share price.

Seeing Machines remains one of our top picks within the sector. The shares trade at 4.1x EV/Sales for FY24E or 3.4x for FY25E. The estimate changes result in a revised target price of 13p from 15p, but leave plenty of upside to the current price.”

My personal view

I was very pleased with the license deal, particularly as it enables SEE to sell into the on-road portion of the General Construction category. As the RNS stated: “The changes open up access for Seeing Machines to sell its Guardian solution for on-highway vehicles directly and through its distribution network to select customers in many market segments of the General Construction and other core industries.” 

I wonder if it might even open up the possibility of further licence deals with other manufacturers in the near future, covering vehicles ranging from asphalt pavers, backhoe loaders, cold planers, fork lifts and so on?

What was a mistake in my view was combining an RNS detailing a positive licence deal and one attempting to explain the slower sales of Gen 3. Indeed, I would have preferred the ‘cash EBITDA” issue to have been dealt with in a separate RNS as part of the Trading Update. 

Unfortunately, the way the information was presented effectively killed what was a very good news story without giving any real insight into the issues with Gen 3 uptake. It’s not the first time great news has been upstaged by something negative and it was a clumsy way to communicate to the market.

Regarding the ‘bad’ news, the RNS that was published this week posed more questions than it answered. The reasons for the slower transition to Gen 3 weren’t properly explained, so I expect management to soon clarify exactly what has caused the delay. I’d also like to know if it correct to assume a higher level of operating costs going forward.

That said, Gen 3 is a game changer once it gets going. And that isn’t like to be far off. One source, who prefers to remain nameless but is so accurate that I refer to him as Nostradamus, told me: “I’m expecting sales to ramp up around November/December.” 

Another source has indicated that getting final sign off from the regulatory authorities for the Aftermarket Gen 3 Guardian solution in situ was the delaying factor. (I guess we should be thankful that the EU’s GSR standards are so high). However, that has apparently been achieved recently, so I’m expecting announcements regarding that. 

But why wasn’t that communicated in the original RNS, which would have made clear that the slow Gen 3 uptake really is just a temporary issue that has effectively been resolved? Somehow there appears to have been a miscommunication that cost investors dearly.

Mercifully, for the impatient, auto is doing very well. Not only am I confident that SEE will hit 3m cars on the road by the end of this financial year but Colin Barnden, the renowned analyst at Semicast Research, confirmed the likely ramp on LinkedIn. “The assumption is just the BMW and VW programs will lead to DMS deliveries exceeding 1 million units per quarter within the next twelve months. After many years of delays and frustration, 2024 will be the year DMS deliveries finally exceed ten million units.”

Apparently, the mix in terms of auto vehicles in Q2 led to a slight miss on the profit front for auto but with volumes shooting up it’s of little concern going forward. So why mention it in the RNS? 

I’m still very keen on this stock but would really like a little more care taken in the way news flow is handled and the RNSs are put together. It appears a bit too amateurish for a company that is a global leader in an increasingly hot niche market.

The writer holds stock in Seeing Machines

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.