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.

 

Marketing masterstroke milks MOU

Seeing Machines managed to raise its share price today with a masterstroke of marketing; a fluffy RNS that while looking lovely on the surface had very little in terms of actual content.

Said creation mentioned a memorandum of understanding (MOU) but provided few details as to the ‘global semiconductor company’ it was with, and no indication as to the the likely timeframe for any eventual deal nor any mention of the likely monetary value (even a range would have done) of an eventual contract.

Call me a cynic (I’m actually a realist) but when after umpteen yearly fundraises, never-ending RFQs, imminent aviation contracts that have yet to materialise, missing train contracts and umpteen launches (e.g. BDMS) and partnerships (Mix Telematics and Progress Rail) that vanish into the ether, I feel I’ve paid the high admission fee charged by the Realist Investing Club.

To be fair, I’ve witnessed a lot of shenanigans from a wide variety of stocks over the years. Possibly it has left me bitter and twisted. Moreover, most of the instances quoted above pre-date the present senior management of Seeing Machines.

I love See’s tech (as much as I understand it – that is a joke for you tech geeks out there) but am sadly cursed by an inability to sacrifice my journalist sensibilities in the pursuit of profit. Nuts, eh?

Why MOU now?

What perplexes me is this: why mention a MOU now, yet provide no details as to the party it is with, nor indicate the likely size of the eventual contract and a date by which it is likely to be signed?

Perhaps it is super smart marketing, big tease before delivering the details. If the contract is signed soon, great: get a double share price rise from one contract. I will be happy to have my lingering fears dispelled as I watch the share price rise and count my profits. 

Yet, if this proves to be part of a well-planned, pump and fundraise operation I (and many PIs) will be sorely tempted to do an El Jefe and scream: “Bring me the head of Paul McGlone” — while berating its nomad Cenkos for allowing such an RNS to be released.

In short, I’d have preferred an RNS that announced an actual contract/license deal with a monetary value attached (even a vague value range). This would have enabled the share price to sail past 5p, particularly if it put to bed any need for a further fundraise. For the record, I’d certainly not be keen to see an eventual contract announced in a month or two alongside a fundraise, in classic AIM style.

I’m saying this publicly as I hope Seeing Machines responds by soon putting my fears to rest. I want greater transparency. I want further details of this MOU. Better still, quickly provide an RNS that gives something more solid: details of a contract worth millions.

The writer holds stock in Seeing Machines

5 pillars of wisdom for Seeing Machines

I noted the latest RNS from Seeing Machines re. its new hi falutin ‘3 pillars’ strategy….if you’re going to crib a marketing strategy steal from the best; Islam and/or TE Lawrence. Well done.

Strip away the technobabble and hyperbole and it appears that Seeing Machines is providing would be customers with maximum flexibility as to how they choose to use its class-leading technology at a great price, with the option to provide over the air updates. Of course, I am not well versed in the world of BS bingo so I’ve avoided any mention of ‘deep edge’.

That’s all very fine and I look forward to numerous licence deals that remove any lingering possibility of a fundraise and share consolidation. Imminently.

5 pillars

I don’t doubt the technology, just management’s resolve to deliver for private investors. I’d therefore like Seeing Machines to build these 5 pillars of wisdom into its actions:

  1. Demonstrate that management are so convinced of its future success that they use their own cash to buy meaningful numbers of shares. Especially the CEO.
  2. Greater transparency re. RFQs, BDMS, Aviation, strategy for trucks and and yes, even trains. Silence just won’t do.
  3. A reduction in BS bingo and technobabble in comms: terms like ‘low integration pathway’ etc, etc. Explain what you mean in plain English. Australians are renowned for their plain speaking so let’s have more of it. My neural processing unit will be better able to read your RNSs if you do that.
  4. Put to bed the idea that a fundraise may be needed. Stifel in its initiation note on 21st July 2020 indicated one would be needed, stating: “Key risks to our thesis include the need to raise funds; order push outs; regulatory changes; competition; and market disruption.” (Incidentally, why isn’t this note up on the Seeing Machines website for all PIs to read?)
  5. An online webinar for the results is needed. One where investors can post questions online in real time. React did this and if a tiny company like that can do it there is no excuse for SEE not doing likewise.

I should add that I still believe this technology is great and will save many, many lives. Good luck to all those at the company. Congrats on the Mercedes S launch. 

Cenkos note

For those seelievers out there, the Cenkos (house broker) note published today provided a very positive take on the latest developments, with analyst Marc Bunce commenting: “We see the launch of Occula (TM!) as an exciting development for the company with this step change in the Seeing Machines technology expected to further the gap from its peers in benchmark testing. It is the result of significant work under the radar and the announcement demonstrates confidence in the company that it has world class technology not just in DMS but also human tracking and detection. With the added offer to license for virtually any embedded or ASIC application a Tier 2, Tier 1 or OEM can think of, Seeing Machines has brought its top tier performance into easy access and affordability for all vehicles (and locations in vehicles) as well as other applications. This will undoubtedly increase its potential market share in automotive but will also no doubt pique the interest of other technology developers and integrators. Seeing Machines is therefore opening back up from a transportation focussed technology company to a human-machine interface technology supplier which could deliver further significant value to investors which is not reflected in the current share price.”

That almost reads like a ‘come and get me’ plea. There may be takers once a few more contracts are signed.

The writer holds stock in Seeing Machines

End the threat of nuclear war

While Governments around the world have devoted huge resource to fighting Coronavirus most are ignoring a far greater threat to humanity; nuclear war.

My article on how to end the threat of nuclear war by encouraging Nuclear Disarmament, has just been published in Reader’s Digest (UK edition). Please give it a read. In includes comments from Noam Chomsky, Kate Hudson General Secretary of CND, Beatrice Fihn executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), Alan Robock a renowned US climatologist and Tom Collina at the US-based Ploughshares Fund.

In addition, here is a short interview with Noam Chomsky on the threat of nuclear war.

‘Covid-19 ate my bonus’

While I’m naturally disappointed that Coronavirus has induced another revenue warning at Seeing Machines, it isn’t a great surprise. That the CEO will forgo some salary (along with others) as welll as a huge bonus seems sensible under the circumstances. Well done.

I feel for those hard working employees who have been sacrificed. Hopefully, they’ll prosper in the future.

My firm hope is that the appointment of Michael Brown (Fund Manager at Volantis 1798) to the board will act as an impetus to act in the interests of all shareholders. I’m certainly bemused that after umpteen fund raises it has taken Covid-19 to impel the board to “restructure to improve its focus on profit in the three business units’. (A bit like Boris Johnson getting plenty of PPE into hospitals and care homes after Coronavirus dies down.)

What keeps me invested here is the technology and the regulation that is driving its implementation. I firmly believe Seeing Machines will bounce back when some of the delayed contracts are announced. Until that happens I will look like a mug, of course.

Also, the launch of the Mercedes S level and the Ford F-150 (featuring SEE’s tech) this year should bring a PR boost to the company. 

For any tempted to despair, I would urge them to remember these wise words from Philip Fisher: “The stock market is filled with individuals who know the price of everything, but the value of nothing.” 

The writer holds stock in 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.

Coronavirus mania is overdone

Can I be the only person who thinks the state-encouraged Coronavirus panic is overdone to an absurd degree?

Before you label me a ‘nut job’, deep clean your computer and order a few more face masks, please hear me out.

I admit Coronavirus exists. I admit it is fairly virulent and does kill people just as flu does. However, it is not nearly as deadly as the ebola virusAccording to the World Health Organisation (WHO) the average ebola virus disease case mortality rate is around 50%. Case fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks.

With Corona virus the mortality rate is only around 1%. It does not appear to kill people who aren’t already suffering from underlying health conditions. Generally, people who are older than 60, or have a weakened immune system or chronic illnesses like lung disease, heart disease or diabetes, have the highest risk of becoming severely ill if they contract the coronavirus or the flu.

Flu kills more

One crucial fact should not be forgotten; the numbers who are dying from it appear to be far less than die from seasonal flu each year.

According to the WHO across the globe up to 650,000 people die from respiratory diseases linked to seasonal flu each year. So far, approximately 178,000  have died from Coronavirus worldwide. (While every death is regrettable we need to keep a sense of proportion).

Public Health England estimates that on average 17,000 people have died from the flu in England annually between 2014/15 and 2018/19. However, the yearly deaths vary widely, from a high of 28,330 in 2014/15 to a low of 1,692 in 2018/19.

Those who are still terrified should ask themselves: do I personally know anyone who has died from the coronavirus? 

So why the utter panic in the West? Why the shutting down of everyday life in the UK?

Boris using coronavirus

I personally think that there are multiple reasons in the UK:

Firstly, this Government doesn’t want to be seen not to be taking the threat seriously. It certainly doesn’t want to be blamed for austerity-related lack of NHS resources (nurses, hospital beds, respirators) to cope with the extra strain put on an underfunded health service.

Secondly, the economy both here, (as in the US and EU) was in trouble before coronavirus. The Government would most likely have had to create billions of pounds to support the economy in the months ahead and stave off a deflationary spiral. The coronavirus has hastened that process. Moreover, it offers a perfect opportunity to kill 2 birds with a big bazooka of money. If the result is economic growth and inflation that shrinks our already debt burden, that is a perfect outcome.

Boris Johnson has cleverly decided to turn what could have been a PR disaster (public at risk from underfunded NHS, pollution and inadequate social care for the elderly) into an opportunity. He is using this pandemic scare and the fears of the population to try to unite a divided country, bail out failing businesses and a weak economy and secure the mantle of Churchill, something he has long craved.

Now I’m not saying that Coronavirus isn’t real. What I am saying that the health emergency we face is a direct result of underfunding of the National Health Service. Also, the economy and stock market was likely to crash very soon anyway, Coronavirus just acted as a catalyst to hasten the process.

Of course, most of the mainstream media is happy to go along with this charade. Just as they failed to acknowledge how weak the UK economy was before Coronavirus occurred, they want the British public to act herd-like and follow the current orthodoxy.

Soon, we’ll read in our press and the  BBC and ITV how Boris saved the country from Coronavirus with his extreme measures and rescued the economy. Readers, you need to dig a little deeper and understand how you are being manipulated.

Be in no doubt, there will be a reckoning. When the UK public wakes up and realises it has been had, it won’t be happy. Then again, aided by the servile and unquestioning British media Boris Johnson may very well get away with it. At least until some historian comes to examine the facts many years from now.

React should benefit from coronavirus concerns

With today’s announcement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the spread of coronavirus in the UK “will get worse before it gets better” the impact of this global pandemic is starting to be felt here in the UK.

As the number of infected people hits 40, businesses are losing contracts, the stock market is falling, schools are closing and there is a general air of unease as the Government attempts to stop the spread of this virus.

Yet, it isn’t all doom and gloom, particularly for savvy investors.

Golden opportunity

For those seeking a hitherto overlooked stock that can benefit from measures to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, yet offers downside protection when the virus is eventually subdued, React could provide a golden opportunity.

Although this specialist cleaning company has almost tripled in price since first tipped here last year, the impact of the coronavirus means that its specialist deep cleaning services to eradicate infection in schools, hospitals, businesses and public transport will be very much in demand. For example, it has been reported that 15 schools have closed, all of which are likely to require deep cleaning.

The quality of React’s deep cleaning was recognised as recently as February when it was awarded a £121k contract to deep clean a prestigious health sector site in central London over a 7-month period. It also is experienced in maintaining high standards of hospital hygiene.

Admittedly, there isn’t even a broker note on the company but it is backed by two big funds, Helium Rising Stars (23.74%) and Octopus Investments (18.52).

Turnover for the year ended 30 September 2019 was £3.10m (2018: £3.30m) as unprofitable work was discontinued. Gross margins were 750-basis points higher at 28.5% (2018: 21.0%) and operating performance has materially improved to a loss of £183,000 (2018: loss of £1,951,000).

Investors should note that it is fairly illiquid, so that even slight buying/selling can move the price significantly.

At only 0.8p at the time of writing, React is definitely worth some deep research.

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