Investors express annoyance with Seeing Machines

Following my last blog, institutional investors have fired a shot across the boughs of management by voting against the remuneration package of CEO Paul McGlone.

Approximately 31% of votes cast were against his ‘Termination Benefits’ package, which had rather soft targets. Still, if good news isn’t forthcoming in the very near future I think he may be glad to have got them in the bag.

In my experience if several IIs are prepared to publicly vote against such a package, many more would have been annoyed by the CEO getting a bonus before delivering the goods.

Fleet fixed

Speaking of deliveries, I firmly believe that fleet is fixed and upwards of 20,000 Guardian units have been installed worldwide. However, the company insists on not releasing this material information to all investors – though it was inadvertently leaked by a distributor in Chile.

Instead, like a tired politician, they are chanting the mantra of “Let’s get the interims done,” while bandying about a 16k figure that is 5 months old, as if it has any meaning.

Worse, the information on the distributor’s website has been doctored in a rather rough and ready way. It now reads (in translation): “Guardian saves lives in more than 24 countries in the world, monitoring more than 20,000 vehicles in mining and commercial fleet vehicles.”

So all of a sudden we’re supposed to believe no new Guardian units have been installed in 5 months? Also that fleet and CAT are no longer split? It’s the worse cover up since Boris Johnson insisted that the NHS is safe in his hands. 

I appreciate management want to surprise investors with good news but if price sensitive it needs to come out in a timely manner. How about a pre-Xmas trading update? Consider it a stocking filler to your long-suffering investors – who’ve just awarded the CEO the biggest present of his life.

As an aside, it’s worth remembering that institutional investors, being a little old fashioned, really do value integrity and openness. For example, they’d be annoyed if the company held back news on say, a new Tier 1 distributor, if it was deemed material.

The writer still holds shares in Seeing Machines.

Seeing Machines to surprise on upside

I spoke with 2 fund managers last week about Seeing Machines. I won’t reveal their names here but what they said reinforced my opinion that the revelation that fleet is well and truly fixed, coupled with proof that breakeven is imminent (when the Aviation licensing deal is signed), will really move the share price in the very near future.

The first fund manager knew and liked Seeing Machines but, because he runs a large fund, can’t invest in companies below a £200m market cap. 

The second fund manager used to hold Seeing Machines but sold because it appeared to have too many issues and there was no sign of breakeven. 

Their views are probably replicated ten times over with other fund managers, which means that there is a large weight of money ready and willing to come into SEE once it effectively communicates the fact that fleet is fixed and breakeven is coming very soon.

Admittedly, there must also be holders who have lost patience, particularly as the company appears to be in no rush to provide detailed updates on the progress on Fleet. I’m personally tired of hearing the figure of 16,000 fleet installations given out for months on end.

Fleet

My own view, as revealed at the CMD, is that Fleet installations must be at least 20,000 right now. It’s therefore great to discover that this figure appears to be correct, since it has been published on the website of Seeing Machines’ Latin American distributor in Chile. It has on its homepage the words: “Guardian salva vidas en mas de 30 paises del mundo monitoreando mas de 20.000 vehiculos en tiempo real.” Translated into english it means: “Guardian saves lives in more than 30 countries in the world by monitoring more than 20,000 vehicles in real time.”

Screen Shot 2019-11-21 at 13.58.00

Given this is the case, why isn’t Seeing Machines communicating this to investors and the wider market? Moreover, why isn’t Cenkos upgrading its projections?

Instead, the market is still being provided with the laughable estimate from Cenkos that fleet will only deliver revenue of A$20.9m for the full year 2020, based on uber conservative numbers that are even below Seeing Machines unrealistically low estimate of 27k-30k installations.

This is what Cenkos wrote in its note of 23 September, 2019 “….our Fleet connection forecasts are based on connections below the guidance of 27k-30k”.

One might reasonably ask for these projections to be updated. Still the questions remains, why haven’t they been updated? Okay, Cenkos is the house broker and is pretty dependent on Seeing Machines for a steer, so why haven’t they had it?

Reading an old blog post on Safestocks, I was reminded how management priorities differ from those of private investors.

There is an additional reason, I believe. Naturally, a prudent new CEO wants to have something up their sleeve to impress the market. Let’s not forget that Seeing Machines has disappointed investors many times over the past 5 years. The onus really is on him to deliver and keep on delivering.

The good news is that I think that is what is in store for investors in Seeing Machines. In short I expect fleet upgrades by the interims (at the latest) and then again for the finals.  Forget estimates of 27k-30k fleet units for this financial year, backed by uber conservative figures from Cenkos. The actual figures for installations should be nearer the 35k mark, which will blow away the existing estimates.

In addition, I expect such upgrades to be preceded by an RNS announcing an aviation licensing deal with with L3 Harris and/or CAE, that provides an upfront payment and ongoing royalties. If it lives up to the billing from Paul McGlone in a recent interview I expect it to bring forward breakeven from the end of calendar year 2021 to June 2020 this financial year.

That news, when eventually delivered, will cause a huge re-rating as IIs, who’ve lost interest or sat on the sidelines, jump into this stock.

For long suffering investors in Seeing Machines vindication is close at hand.

The writer holds stock in Seeing Machines.

SEE: when will you deliver for investors?

I’ve tried being subtle, not that it suits me. Still the question now needs to be asked, when will Seeing Machines start delivering, instead of taking from its investors?

I’m concerned that the management of Seeing Machines has long forgotten that it runs the company not for itself but for its investors. This was brought home to me by a quick look at the latest Annual Report.

A case in point is the huge payment that Ex-CEO Ken Kroeger received last year: A$654K (£347K), revealed on page 47. That’s great pay considering the share price plummeted 75%. Admittedly, AIM CEOs are well known for paying themselves well regardless of performance, but (as a shareholder) I find this instance especially outrageous.

Nor does it end there, as staff recently received huge share bonuses for work over the same period. Clearly, management aren’t sharing the pain with us long-term investors.

I’d hoped that new CEO Paul McGlone would chart a new path but I don’t see it yet. Here are 3 issues I personally have:

  • There still seems to be no discernible PR strategy in place. For example, SEE has a fancy US PR firm that don’t seem able to generate mass coverage for what is an easy sell to editors; car tech that saves lives. As a case in point, when I tried to get some simple answers to some obvious questions about their RNS on Alaska Airlines recently they failed to deliver. Am I being singled out for special treatment or are all journalists treated so poorly?
  • Lack of transparency for shares awards to the CEO; why have no targets been set and communicated via RNS? This is how SEE do it. This is how another AIM company, Parity did it. Take a look at page 17 of Seeing Machines’ annual report to learn about a remuneration policy with no policy.
  • Lack of disclosure re. relationships with partners. For example, what is going on with Mix Telematics and why aren’t we being told? It’s been years since a contract was signed and we still have yet to see it bear any fruit. Hiding behind NDAs just looks weak.

I hope next week at the Capital Markets Day the management under new CEO Paul McGlone will adjust course and address longstanding investor concerns about the lack of transparency and poor news flow. After all, investing should work for the many, not the few.

This isn’t meant to knock the staff of Seeing Machines or its technology. I have the highest respect for the brilliant technology coming out of this company and the dedication of the majority of its staff to delivering life-saving technology to the masses. I just want more transparency and better execution from management.

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!

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.

 

Webcast for Seeing Machines results?

I’d like to request that Seeing Machines hold a live webcast for investors when it announces its results in late September (no firm date has yet been communicated). This would go some way to improving the transparency of its communications to private investors who don’t have the luxury of regular one-to-one meetings with management.

With its headquarters in Canberra most shareholders aren’t in position to attend results presentations/AGMs in person and it would provide demonstrable proof that the new management is committed to clear and timely communication to all.

Other AIM-listed companies do this already. Veoneer, Aptiv and others do it also and Seeing Machines should walk the walk on investor communications.

Never mind spending a fortune on engaging a US PR outfit, there are simple ways to engage existing investors and grow your global profile among investors.

Regardless of the good news that is coming (yes, no rush Seeing Machines we can wait for the official announcements), private investors deserve a clear and transparent communications strategy, not just videos interviews put out on an obscure website where only easy questions are asked (albeit from a skilled interviewer).

I don’t have the influence to make this happen but the investors reading this do. Agitate for it and make it happen. Good luck.

The writer holds stock in Seeing Machines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Volvo XC90: another win for SEE

The evidence is stacking up that Seeing Machines has won Volvo in the teeth of opposition from its Swedish rival Smart Eye.

Read this article on the Volvo XC90 and note the way it describes how the DMS system will work. Congrats to Nick DiFiiore and his team on this one. All we need now is the RNS.

I believe the delay in announcing auto OEM contract news is due to their being re-scoped and enlarged by car manufacturers in the light of EU legislation that will mandate DMS in all new type cars from 2022.

Of course, fund managers have been getting the inside track on developments this week so I am optimistic we will get some big buys.

Still, rather than a soft-focus video, private investors also deserve to meet the management. Hey, SEE, how about organising a webinar and answering some tough questions from people who’ve invested their hard earned money over a number of years? Or better still, call another meeting in London.

Certainly, in his most recent interview the new CEO, Paul McGlone, seemed very confident. He can certainly talk the talk and it is my hope he will also walk the walk over the next 6 months. Time will tell.

The writer holds shares in Seeing Machines.

Silver lining in a cloud of investor misery?

Following today’s news that Seeing Machines is having a deeply discounted  conditional placing and subscription to raise £27.5m, the management of the company seems to have lost both the goodwill and trust of many private investors. 

Indeed, the fact SEE couldn’t get even get a placing with existing institutional investors away at 5p tells you a lot.

It’s quite frankly shocking that the company had to offer shares at 3p in order to raise cash and follows a long series of fleet and train related mishaps that Chris Grayling would be proud of.

The only silver lining I can see is that with the expected OEM wins still to be announced it becomes a sitting duck for an opportunistic bid. My sources tell me that last year, after numerous ‘discussions’, it came close to being snapped up by Bosch for around 17p. Well, I dare say, it is still available at a knock-down price.

Anyone want a to buy a company with great tech but poor management? 10p? Anyone? 7.5p?

UPDATE

For those investors despairing tonight, I’ve some hope. Ironically it comes from house broker Cenkos who put out a note today. Analyst Jean-Marc Bunce clearly cares about his reputation and though he lowered the price target to 9p, Bunce can’t help but admit on page 15:

“Strategic value is significant – 39p at 8% discount rate

To demonstrate the significant value in the increasingly visible future cash flows from Seeing Machines’ automotive license fees, we note that a large organisation with a market average Beta of 1 would have an equity cost of capital of 8%. At an 8% cost of capital our valuation for Seeing Machines rises to 39p and we note the weighted average cost of capital for a large corporate would likely be even lower through debt financing.”

In fact, the more times I read this note the more I get the sense that it is setting out a case for SEE being sold at a particular price. We’ll see.

The writer holds stock in SEE.

Is it time to React?

React Group is a tiny AIM-listed company that has a chequered history and recently decided to concentrate on specialist cleaning. It is also a sub penny stock. So far, so bad.

The good news is that star fund manager David Newton has a chunky 15.74% holding and the company’s management has been strengthened with the addition of a Non-Executive Director Michael Joyce, former CFO at InterQuest.

Joyce and his wife have recently bought stock in the company (management of SEE, please note) which has helped spark this week’s increase in the share price.

Mark Braund has also been brought in as an operational and strategic advisor. He is a former CEO of InterQuest and also ex-CEO of Redstone Connect.

I briefly held this stock about 3 years ago when Adam Reynolds (the cash shell king) was a holder. He has since moved on and I feel that with a clearer strategy the company is now gearing up for a period of accelerated growth.

It made a loss for the year ended 30 September of £1.93m but the net cash outflow from operations was far less at £625k, with turnover up 25% at £3.3m. If the business continues on its current growth trajectory it could easily multi-bag from here.

At this stage it has be regarded as a fairly speculative investment and is certainly not one to sink your pension pot into. Yet, it is certainly worthy of further investigation.

At the time of writing its share price was 0.27p.

The writer holds stock in React.