Wameja low-ball takeover by Mastercard

Well done holders of Wameja who held onto this stock and who have received a bid from Mastercard, albeit at a very low-ball price of 8p, well short of its 20p valuation from FinnCap. That is the price of holding only a minority interest, I guess.

Holders should hold on for the time being for 2 reasons:

  • 1) They won’t lose 0.5p a share as the offer price from market makers is currently 7.5p,
  • 2)  I noted the wording in the RNS today: “In the absence of a superior proposal” the bid has been accepted. There may be a slim chance Visa could come in to frustrate the process and set off a bidding war.

I hope long term holders of WJA as well as readers of my blog made some money out of this  stock, as Wameja was mentioned on Safestocks as a takeover play. However, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge that FinnCap analyst Lorne Daniel put me onto it with his excellent analysis.

Lessons for Seeing Machines

There are lessons from this for private investors (and even management) in Seeing Machines, I believe.

Firstly, Lombard Odier, which holds 23.45% has accepted the Wameja offer. I do hope Seeing Machines is eventually taken out at a healthier premium. However, at its current price it remains vulnerable, particularly as Lombard Odier, via Volantis 1798, holds a jumbo 19.9%.

This also has lessons for holders of any share; there is an opportunity cost for holding a stock for years and years in the hope of a bumper pay day.

The writer holds stock in Wameja and Seeing Machines.

 

React cleans up after Covid-19

In an exclusive interview with Safestocks, Shaun Doak CEO of AIM minnow React (AIM:REAT) reveals that this specialist cleaning and decontamination company has benefitted from the high demand for its decontamination and infection control services to eliminate the virus responsible for the coronavirus.

Currently, React is carrying out Covid-19 decontamination clean-ups from everything from police vehicles to offices to manufacturing plants. “I can’t give you much detail, because it’s commercially sensitive IP, however the way we carry out our decontaminations is lot more thorough than many of our competitors, that is for sure. We do ‘before’ and ‘after’ testing to ensure we have decontaminated property to a high standard and certify swabbed areas are clear from traces of the virusWe use the correct chemicals and equip our operators beyond the standards required to ensure their health & safety. We set ourselves apart by doing things the right way.”

He continues: “Just to give you a little flavour of that, we do a lot of Covid-19 decontaminations that have already been decontaminated, allegedly, 2-3 days before. But they haven’t been done properly. The ATP-testing we apply hasn’t been done, which we do in order to certify the property as clear.

Not only have its 90 staff been working flat out to meet demand for its specialist decontamination services but he also foresees that this pandemic may alter the mindset of people as to the importance of regular deep cleaning. “We’ve all worked in offices that have never experienced a deep clean but I think that moving forwards things may be very different. I think it has to be.”

“Once lockdown is relaxed I think there will be an increased sensitivity towards hygiene in the workplace.  More specifically, there will likely be pushback from employees that won’t readily wish to go back to their place of work until the premises have been decontaminated. That may not necessarily be a Covid-19 decontamination, it may be just a deep clean. However, any incidents of property being exposed to the virus will be dealt with rapidly until such time that COVID-19 no longer remains a threat. That is certainly some of the information I am receiving from customers out there, anyway.”

Indeed, just as London bus drivers have hit out at lack of protection and are demanding that their buses are properly deep cleaned, it would be surprising if employees (especially unionised ones) across the whole of the UK don’t want to ensure premises are safe before returning to work after the lockdown. Indeed, I believe employers will wish to eliminate the risks to their employees, visitors and the business of repeat infections as a result of contaminated property.

For its part, React provides its employees the best PPE equipment available and certainly to a higher standard than your average deep cleaner, as Doak explains. “When Covid-19 reared its ugly head, people who were working on contract work for us, including  hospital work and rail sector, we went above and  beyond Public Health England and the World Health Organisation requirements to protect our staff. The reason I did that was firstly, I have a background in construction and place a heavy focus on health and safety. Secondly, we are only as good as the staff out there carrying out their job. As a brand we have a strong reputation for the excellent standard of work carried out by our staff. The last thing I wanted to do was to risk exposing them to danger in any shape or form.”

React goes after difficult work with decent margins and therefore its employees are also paid well, which certainly seems fair and makes for a well-motivated workforce. “We pay our specialist operatives well, a lot higher than most would appreciate, but we appreciate what they do is unpleasant stuff that no one else wants to do.

Beyond Covid-19

Doak is at pains to stress that React is not just a provider of Covid-19 decontamination services. “We are not just a Covid-19 clean-up company, we are a specialist deep cleaner. I believe the best out there.”

“We carry out specialist cleaning and decontamination work that other companies just don’t want to, or aren’t qualified to do. Because of that our customers value what we do and pay us appropriately. Likewise, we pay our staff well and appropriate for the specialist work they carry out.”

Thus, it gets involved in everything from deep cleaning within the healthcare sector, hospital trusts, cleaning up after road traffic accidents, picnic sites after a bank holiday, huge fly tips by the side of the road, drug dens knee-deep in needles, flea invested properties as well as train fatality clean ups for the majority of train companies. All of this takes place right across England, Scotland and Wales using its partnership/sub-contractor network.

It is also important to appreciate that the React business is divided into 2 parts: of approximately equal size of revenues; reactive cleaning services – which is supporting the deep cleaning requirements; and regular maintenance services.

What has become clear with the £500k contract in the rail sector that was won in January is that React is now able to leverage relationships that it has built up, to be a one-stop shop for a variety of complex cleaning jobs, a sort of facilities management house for specialist cleaning services. 

I therefore believe that the increase in demand for its services isn’t just a flash in the pan and that it is set to be profitable from here on in — something of a rarity for a growth stock.

This company is flying beneath the radar of most investors, both because of its tiny £3m market cap and the lack of forecasts in the market. That said, it is expected to be profitable at the interims and for the full year. As it said in a Trading Update RNS published on April 6th: “At the start of the financial year, which runs to 30 September 2020, management expectations had been for the business to move into profitability after reporting annual losses for the last four-years.  Recent trading, notably in March, has been ahead of management expectations and as result the Group is likely to have delivered a small operating profit in the six months to 31 March 2020, which puts the Group in a good position to meet or exceed management expectations for the full year.”

Another positive is that aside from CEO Shaun Doak, who appears to be doing a fine job selling the services of the company with some big contract wins recently, there appears to be a surprising amount of in-depth management expertise within this micro-cap. These include a new Financial Director and a new Operations Manager. 

In summary, React is much more than a Covid-19 play and I believe the business will continue to grow profitably. As it does, the share price should appreciate substantially. Indeed, in time, I’d hope to see a dividend.

The writer holds stock in React.

The bad, the good and the ugly

Seeing Machines put out a half year trading update yesterday that for entertainment value rivalled a Spaghetti Western. All that was lacking was a thumping soundtrack by Ennio Morricone, though many investors’ racing hearts would have supplied that as they read the announcement and accompanying broker note.

Certainly, the update was a slight disappointment, albeit a massive improvement on the first half a year earlier.

The Bad

Although the company’s guidance for the full year to June 30th 2020 remains unchanged, house broker Cenkos (in a note littered with errors – see page 3) took the opportunity to downgrade revenue projections, increase losses, indicate that SEE could need cash by end of financial year 2021, all while lowering its valuation to 11.4p from 12.1p. No wonder the price dropped!

Here are the changes for the current financial year:

  • Estimated revenues for financial year 2020 reduced from A$47.5m to A$45.5m.
  • Adjusted pre-tax loss increased to A$39.2m from A$35.9m

In FY 2021, according to Jean-Marc Bunce’s own figures this leads to a funding shortfall of A$4.4m.

The concern in investors minds must therefore be how might SEE deal with this if these figures turn out to be accurate? It’s certainly worth keeping an eye on.

The good

Still, both SEE and Cenkos hint that it may be a problem that will soon find a solution. After all, Seeing Machines “remains in advance (sic) discussions with parties for a licensing deal” say Cenkos, quoting Paul McGlone. It assumed that this is for aviation and cranes/ferries but may also be for gaming via Qualcomm.

There are also long overdue OEM auto deals that haven’t yet been announced that I believe SEE has won as well as many more due this year. For example, I’m in the camp that believes SEE have already won Volvo and I am hoping that Veoneer will announce a win its forthcoming quarterly update.

Thus, while panicked investors and canny traders have recently been selling, an announcement on a material deal that puts to bed funding concerns will see a huge and immediate rise in the share price. That is surely why Volantis 1798 have been buying up shares as weak hands let go. They are big and active investors and seek to make huge gains. I expect them to continue buying up to 19.99% and obtain a boardroom seat.

I am sure that they, like me, believe See is fundamentally undervalued and potentially worth billions. Those who doubt this statement need to do more research and then decide for themselves. In the words of Warren Buffett: “Price is what you pay; value is what you get.”

The ugly

I don’t believe Paul McGone would risk his reputation saying deals are expected if they weren’t coming. He has already lost some credibility with the delay over the ‘imminent’ Aviation licensing deal. As a result he can’t be said yet to be ‘walking the walk’, although fleet does seem to be largely fixed. If SEE fails to close the Aviation deal and announce some OEM wins in the next 3 months, he’ll be looking as if he is walking like Max Wall (watch from 3m 50secs). The best option then might be to follow in the footsteps of previous management and say, ‘Auf Wiedersehen’.

What annoys me is the lack of transparency as per the fleet 20k installations saga.  I also don’t like the underplaying of contract sizes and Seeing Machines’ likely share of the automotive market. Yet, stealth has its advantages when your share price makes you vulnerable to a low-ball bid. 

The writer holds stock in Seeing Machines

DMS requirement to become law in EU

I can now confirm that the new European Union ‘General Safety Regulation’ rules are set to enter into force in January/February 2020, then start applying 30 months later.

The process, I’ve been told by an EU spokesperson, is as follows:

  1. The Council of the EU decides to adopt by accepting the European Parliament’s (EP) amendments to the Commission Proposal (8th November)
  2. Then the act is signed by the President of the EP and the General Secretary of the Council in the week beginning 25th November.
  3. Within a month it gets published in the Official Journal of the EU.  The act in this case provides that it enters into force (obtains legal existence) 20 days after publication in the OJ.

The act also provides for a 30-month transitional period for most provisions, which means it will only start to apply 30 months after entry into force.

Note: the exact date(s) will be known only once the act has been published in the OJ as all deadlines depend on that date.

2020 the year of DMS

Enough of EU procedures: the good news is that from 2020 there will be a legal requirement for all completely new car models to have systems to monitor drivers for drowsiness and also distraction by June 2022, while even refreshed models will have to comply by 2024.

Euro NCAP, which has traditionally set car safety standards well beyond legislative requirements, is pushing equally hard for advanced driver monitoring. It is developing test and assessment protocols that will be introduced at the beginning of 2021. Moreover, requirements to measure driver distraction and fatigue/drowsiness will be built into Euro NCAP’s 5 star safety ratings from 2022.

Thatcham Research, is also working with Euro NCAP to develop testing protocols to ensure future cars have effective driver monitoring systems.

While these regulations and standards are intended to be ‘technology neutral’, it is now obvious that the only technology that can effectively meet these requirements is camera-based DMS.

This is very positive news for Seeing Machines, in particular, and I’m expecting some big auto contracts to be announced soon.

The writer still holds SEE stock!

CAT-style Aviation licence deal is coming

The announcement by Seeing Machines that it is collaborating with Alaska Airlines is significant as it underlines its intention to extract value from its leadership position in this niche of the Aviation market.

In a note issued today by house broker Cenkos, analyst John-Marc Bunce reiterated Seeing Machines’ determination to sign a CAT-style license agreement with two major aviation simulator manufacturers.

Bunce wrote: “With Seeing Machines many years ahead of its nearest rival in this sector, it is looking like the company could be in a strong negotiating position in discussions with the two major simulator manufacturers for a license. We believe a successful outcome could include an upfront payment as well as a value driven or recurring royalty element.”

It doesn’t require too much detective work to find out who these two are likely to be but, as I don’t want to prejudice any final negotiation or comms plan, I’ll avoid speculating publicly for the time being.

Such a deal should certainly bring forward breakeven and act as a catalyst for a significant re-rating. This is before the announcement of further auto OEM auto wins in Europe — never mind Japan.

The writer holds stock in Seeing Machines

Time to re-rate SEE 2.0

Seeing Machines’ (AIM: SEE) full year results indicated strongly that the issues that affected its fleet division are fixed and I expect news flow over the next few months to drive a significant re-rating.

In a note issued yesterday, house broker Cenkos upgraded its price target to 12p. Analyst John-Marc Bunce explained: ‘We believe the turnaround in fleet will drive the company to profitability in under 2 years with the cash runway looking sufficient even before accounting  for licensing deals or financing against recurring revenues.”

This was reiterated in a webcast from CEO Paul McGlone today in which he assured investors: “Fleet is fixed and starting to perform”. He added that there were no plans for a dilutive equity fundraise in his 3-year plan. Moreover, an aviation licence deal (expected to happen before year end) would effectively mean the company is funded to profitability.

Fortunately, the new CEO seems to have pressed the reset button and confirmed that over the past 6 months he has made significant changes: “The business is now focused on profitable revenue, we don’t chase strategic business.”

Cenkos has pencilled in a conservative (how I dislike that word) A$47.5m revenue figure for the full year to June 2020, with a pre-tax loss of A$35.9m. Thereafter losses fall in 2021 to A$10.6m and SEE reaches profitability in 2022 (A$47.5m).

I think these estimates will be revised over the course of the coming year, bringing forward breakeven by at least a year.

After so many years of disappointment and failure to deliver against financial targets I think this will be a transformational year for Seeing Machines. It will hinge on these 3 things happening:

  1. Acceleration in the installation of Guardian in fleets and cheaper units produced in H2.
  2. More auto OEM contract wins.
  3. Aviation licence deal by the year end.

 

Positives

Fortunately, signs look good for all three.

  1. Fleet growth should accelerate further this year as Cenkos confirms: “We believe the guidance for 27k-30k connections at the end of FY2020 is conservative and underpinned by a strong pipeline.” Moreover, the unit costs of Guardian are due to come down significantly from the the second half of this financial year, driving more profit. In addition, McGlone today revealed that SEE is expecting solid growth in the US market.
  2. I’m expecting two existing US customers to extend their existing contracts and Seeing Machines to win two more OEMs in Europe very soon. This is aside from continued progress in Asia over the course of this financial year.
  3. We now know (after the webcast) that Aviation licence deals are coming soon. That will improve the bottom line without involving significant risks and costs.

Lest we forget, there is also a bigger game afoot, as Bunce pointed out in his note:

“… one could argue that Seeing Machines has greater strategic value than Mobileye has as we highlight the ever-increasing importance for reliable face, eye and emotion tracking in the real world for many applications beyond automotive and transportation; from retail, medical, personal robots and personal computing devices. This value would be seen not just but major chip and software platform providers like Intel, but also the world’s tech giants.”

I’d advise all investors to do their own research and the above is my opinion only.

The writer holds stock in Seeing Machines.

10 questions to Seeing Machines

I’m expecting Seeing Machines to provide positive news and an upgrade for its 2020 financial year when it releases its full year results for 2019 on 23rd September.

However, this is no time for complacency, especially given the errors of the past under the previous management. In particular, questions have been raised about its operational costs and whether it has sufficient cashflow to avoid another raise. I hope we’ve entered a new chapter but we’ll soon know.

Unfortunately, for a few months now Seeing Machines has refused to engage with me and answer my questions. Fine.

However, it would be a shame if hard questions aren’t asked and answered by management when these results come out. To aid that transparency, here are 10 that I hope investors will be asking when the results are published.

1. Analyst Sanjay Jha at Panmure Gordon has previously stated, in a note dated 5th June, 2019 that Seeing Machines isn’t funded to breakeven. “We continue to believe the funds raised in April are not going to last 18 months as the company continues to pursue opportunities in 4 different sectors (Automotive, Fleet, Aviation, Off-road).” When do you now anticipate breakeven and will you need to raise again before then?

2. Regarding operational costs: how many people are now employed by SEE? Did operational costs increase in 2019 and by how much? How much are operational costs planned to increase in the current financial year (2020)?

3. Are you actively seeking to renegotiate the Rail contract with Progress Rail? If so, when do you expect it will be concluded?

4. Given you don’t have the cash to develop automotive, are you actively seeking a CAT-style licence deal for aviation? Do you expect it will be concluded before the calendar year end?

5. Is the monthly growth in fleet revenues sufficient to avoid any further fundraise? Can you quantify this growth?

6. Why has the relationship with Mix Telematics failed to produce much revenue? Is this likely to change in this financial year? How and why?

7. What is the number of Guardian installations you  expect to have in place by June 30, 2020. What is the monthly installation rate? Can you confirm that these are generating cash immediately? What’s the lag?

8. Re. Auto, are you now gunning for the low, mid and high end auto market?

9. Is it the case that if a budget OEM needs a cheap DMS you can provide a DMS chip with less functionality at a reduced price?

10. Are you actively working with Japanese OEMs. Have they finalised exactly how they want DMS to work? (Eg. Integrated into ADAS).

I’m far from infallible and I’m sure investors may have additional questions. Good luck to all holders!

 

The writer holds stock in Seeing Machines.

 

eServGlobal: M&A thoughts

FinnCap, the house broker for eServGlobal, has published a note highlighting the accelerating pace of M&A activity in the payments industry and its implications for the AIM-listed minnow.

There have been 3 big mergers so far this year in the payments industry:

  •   Fiserv’s acquisition of payments processor First Data for $22bn;
  •   Visa’s acquisition of Earthport for £200m; and
  •   Worldpay acquisition of FIS for $43bn.

In addition, after missing out in the Earthport auction, Mastercard has bought Transfast. This prompted EservGlobal to issue an RNS today in which it stated: “Transfast is a network partner of HomeSend, offering reach and connectivity principally into Africa and Latin America, together with foreign exchange and ancillary services. Network relationships are a critical element of HomeSend’s services and HomeSend continues to grow these partnerships through several regional network partners, such as Transfast, together with HomeSend’s own direct connections, to deliver across multiple markets and channels.”

FinnCap Director of Research Lorne Daniel explained: “After missing out in the Earthport auction, Mastercard has bought Transfast. We see this as augmenting not replacing HomeSend. The Transfast acquisition will augment Mastercard’s well-defined and established strategy to dominate global payments with a range of solutions. Purchasing one of the technologies underlying Mastercard Send gives greater control, adding capacity as well as reach.”

Daniel noted: “We continue to expect Mastercard to seek full control (from its current 64.31%) of HomeSend, which it continues to flag as a key platform to dominate international Account-to-Account and Business-to-Business transfers. Indeed, the recent surge in M&A activity in the segment should hasten that move.”

Daniel currently has a target price of 20p on the share.

The writer holds stock in eServGlobal.

SEE is worth over £1 a share

Ridiculous as it might sound, when Seeing Machines is currently 4p a share, I believe its intrinsic value is even now well over £1 a share. This is because it will continue to dominate the automotive driver monitoring niche for the next few years at least.

Anyway, here’s my thinking in a nutshell. I’ve based my valuation on auto alone as I think that is the real driver of value with SEE (excuse that pun!).

In his note on January 16th Jean-Marc Bunce, analyst at house broker Cenkos, revealed: “Seeing Machines has a far more conservative approach to announcing automotive revenue visibility that its competitors”.

In the note he pointed out details on the deals already done. I’ve outlined my thoughts on them here:

  • OEM 1 [General Motors] — Supercruise will be rolled out to entire range of Cadillacs (some 350,000 cars by end 2021). Thereafter, I’d expect it to go into most of GMs 10m cars.
  • OEM 2 [Mercedes] — Programme is just for its flagship S Class saloon car, equivalent to 5% of the total cars produced.
  • OEM 3 [BMW] — stated minimum contract value of USS$25m. However, BMW sells 2.3m cars a year and Fovio chip will be rolled out across the entire group.
  • OEM 4 [Ford] — F-150 is a phenomenal earner for Ford and last year Adam Jonas, the famous Morgan Stanley analyst, stated the franchise could be worth more than Ford itself. It has been estimated that Ford will is planning to produce around 1m a year of these in the future. I expect Ford will also roll it out across other car models in due course. Note that Ford produced 6.6m cars in 2017.
  • OEM 5 [Byton] — relatively small volumes but I’d expect them to grow and other premium electric cars to put Fovio into their offerings.

Imminent wins

By the end of this financial year I expect SEE to have announced wins with FCA, Volkswagen and Volvo with Toyota and probably Honda following shortly after.

Alternatively, you can gain a sense of the value of Seeing Machines auto business by looking at the macro picture. Assume 70% of cars have DMS by 2022, and SEE have at least 50% of that market, with estimated global car volumes of around 110m in 2022. If SEE received US$20 a car (blended average of Fovio selling at US$30 a chip and software at US$10) that would deliver revenues of approximately US$770m a year.

If Gen 2 Fovio can maintain pricing at US$30 a car, revenues would be nearer US$1.1bn a year. EVERY YEAR!

Then, were SEE to be sold for a Mobileye-type valuation of 42x revenues it would be worth a minimum of between US$32bn to US$46bn. Note that Mobileye sold for US$15.3bn.

Now discount that back for execution risk, meteor showers etc and even the meanest industry player would probably pay at least US$5bn (£3.6n) for its strategic value and future cash flows this year. That is about £1.50 a share from its current 4p.

I know some will say that is totally unrealistic. Still, the figures are there if you dig. It has happened before to shares with far less real value than SEE.

Takeover

But don’t worry, I anticipate that long before 2022 Seeing Machines will be bought by a huge company that does see the potential here. In any case, when SEE announces a couple more huge OEM wins (before the end of June) the price should start to appreciate substantially.

So why hasn’t it happened already? Well, I think the market has yet to catch up with reality. But the aroma of coffee is wafting inexorably towards its nose and it will wake up very, very soon.

Colin Barnden, Lead Analyst at Semicast Research wasn’t keen to be drawn on the exact valuation of Seeing Machines but did explain: “What is clear to me is no one is following the DMS market (the big investors still believe in autonomous driving at Levels 4 and 5). This will change soon enough and CES was a big step in that direction. Certainly the car OEMs are in no doubt. I think the delays have come about from the OEMs taking longer to decide which T1/T2 to use, and then rolling DMS out much faster than had been previously thought. All will be clearer by June.”

My fears of a low-ball bidder getting SEE on the cheap have now receded substantially, given the accelerating take up of its camera-based DMS into cars. Any such bid, if publicly acknowledged, would surely just ignite a bidding war.

The writer holds stock in Seeing Machines.

Cadillac extension gives Seeing Machines US$10m boost

News from Motor Authority that Cadillac is rolling out Super Cruise across its entire range of Cadillacs from the end of 2020 is very positive for Seeing Machines, as the system incorporates its Driver Monitoring System (DMS).

Cadillac

Global sales for Cadillac were 356,00 in 2017 and at approximately US$10 a car (only software being used not the chip, apparently), Seeing Machines can look forward to initial revenues with milestone payments of up to US$10m. Thereafter, annually it is likely to be less unless GM moves to a Gen 2 chip or extends the DMS to its entire range of cars.

The Super Cruise system, which enables safe hands-free semi-autonomous driving, was only this week voted the 2019 Technology of the year by Autoblog.

This extension across the entire Cadillac range is certainly materially important, so I’d expect a full RNS at some point. Personally, I think its the first stage in what eventually will be a roll-out across all GM cars. For, just as every car now has seat-belts, DMS is going to be mandated as an essential system around the world to prevent accidents from driver fatigue and inattention.

I’m also expecting confirmation, whether from news articles or RNS announcements, of several other huge auto OEM wins over the next few months.

Fleet

It’s also very encouraging to learn that First Bus, one of the UK’s leading bus operators, to deploy Guardian to numerous bus services across the UK & Ireland.

In the blog post on the Seeing Machines website (why not via an RNS?) the company revealed: “Following an extended evaluation of at the Reading RailAir coach service, running from Reading train station to Heathrow Airport, First Bus has decided to rollout the technology further across their fleet.

“Phase one of the agreement is the fit-out of Guardian to a number of services in the UK and Ireland and has begun with Glasgow Buchanan Street Bus Station to Glasgow Airport. The installation across the region will comprise a mix of retrofit to existing coaches and new builds with Guardian pre-installed. This phase is expected to cover more than 70 buses and coaches and to be completed in early 2019.”

Broker notes

I look forward to Cenkos, and yes even Canaccord Genuity, soon producing updated estimates for this year and well beyond. This is because I believe projected revenue growth over the next 3 years, led by auto, will amaze many. Moreover, contracted revenues should grow exponentially this year, led by further deals with auto manufacturers who are keen to incorporate Seeing Machines Fovio driver monitoring technology into their cars.

The writer holds stock in Seeing Machines.