Peel Hunt note questions Smart Eye and Seeing Machines comparison

Peet Hunt Analyst Oliver Tipping has issued a broker note on Seeing Machines that questions the contract size for Smart Eye’s recent US$150m win, while stating that Seeing Machines puts out minimum values for its wins. This is a point I made recently but, coming from Peel Hunt, it confirms it for any doubters out there.

Still, the most important point made in the note was that aside from its most recent $30m win, there are many more auto contracts expected to be announced by Seeing Machines early in the New Year. Tipping wrote: “This win was the first of the major European contracts Seeing Machines was hoping to win before the end of the year, thus its pipeline remains robust as it looks to deliver more wins in early 2024.”

The numbers game

Tipping also confirmed that Seeing Machines is very conservative regarding its contract values: “It  is  important  to  remember  that  the contract value Seeing  Machines reports is conservatively  based  off  minimum  production  volumes,  which are  likely  to  be  far  lower  than  the  actual  production  values  for  these contracts.”

Then he went on to caution investors. “It is vital for investors to be aware of the  differences  between  the  numbers  thrown  around by different  companies  in the DMS market. For example, it would be easy to be distracted by the SEK 1.55bn (US$150m) figure quoted in Smart Eye’s most recent win (which we believe to be General Motors). However, we are unclear how this figure has been calculated as Smart Eye  does  not  disclose its  method  for calculating the  value  of  these  contacts. In addition, this contract was as a tier 1 supplier to the OEM. Given it currently acts as a tier 2 supplier to this OEM, its CEO stated volume as a tier 1 supplier is only likely to ramp in 2029, into the 2030s (not from 2027 as mentioned in the RNS) and  thus  has  no  impact  on  cash  generation  in  the  short  to  medium  term.” 

Tipping went on to stress that the key indicator of success is cars on the road, stating: “Until Smart Eye starts reporting this number, the tangibility and true worth of the contract wins remains unclear.”

Still, I’m sure the figures put out by Smart Eye will help it immensely in any future fundraising efforts.

Aside from dealing a knock-out blow to those who think Smart Eye is the global leader in driver and occupant monitoring, the note maintained its ‘Buy’ stance on Seeing Machines and its 12p price target. 

Importantly, it also confirmed that Seeing Machines has, as promised by CFO Martin Ives, started to cut its expenditure. Analyst Oliver Tipping wrote: “Management confirmed that it has executed the first of its cost-cutting measures aimed at bringing the cash burn down to break-even by FY25 (-$3m a month exit run rate from FY23). We await further details in  the  1H24  update,  but  this  will  be  crucial  in  underpinning  the  long-term viability of the business. For now, the company has a strong balance sheet, which should see it to its targeted break-even date.”

Auto contracts worth $1bn

With its latest win Seeing Machines now has auto contracts officially worth US$366m. However, as previously stated, given Seeing Machines propensity to cite minimum values that turn out to be much larger, I believe the real worth of those contracts is approximately 3 times that. Yes, $1bn! 

Why is that significant? Well $1bn in auto contracts surely makes it a very desirable candidate for a takeover in the very near future, particularly as it is soon to hit break-even.

With the move to assisted driving taking over from dreams of full autonomy and legislation coming into effect this year in Europe that mandates driver monitoring, the future is looking very bright for Seeing Machines.

The writer holds stock in Seeing Machines.

Peel Hunt initiates coverage of Seeing Machines

Peel Hunt has initiated coverage of Seeing Machines with a 12p price target in a note published last week.

In the note Analyst Damindu Jayaweera argues: “With EU regulatory deadlines in mid-2024, we are starting to see a ramp-up in requests for quotes in the DMS market. Given its asset-light, flexible opex model, this should yield a Free Cash Flow (FCF) inflection. The well-funded balance sheet de-risks medium term.”

He went on to state: “We see further potential upside, based on the following potential catalysts:

  1. Signing an aviation licensing deal,
  2. Aftermarket product sales and accompanying monitoring contracts outstripping our estimates — as management is confident they will, and
  3. A shorter runway to there being more Seeing Machines-equipped cars on the road — again management sees upside beyond our royalties earnings estimates. 

We predict that the company will be FCF positive by 2026E, supported in the meantime by its cash reserves and the Magna facility.”

Later in the note (Page 10), Jayaweera provided more details on these potential catalysts. “First, signing an Aviation licensing deal would lead to a material uptick in revenues, as we have kept them immaterial in our forecasts. Second, Aftermarket product sales and accompanying monitoring contracts have the potential to outstrip our estimates: management is confident it can achieve over 10,000 unit sales in 2H23, >10% higher than our forecast. Finally, a shorter timeline to more equipped cars being on the road would generate upside, as we have been conservative with our royalty earnings assumptions given historical delays.”

For 2023 Jayaweera predicts sales of US$53.8m with FCF of minus $41m. Sales then continue rising to $118m in 2026, with FCF cash flow of $18m.

Certainly, long-suffering private investors should take heart that more and more analysts are starting to beat the drum for DMS and Seeing Machines in particular. 

The mantra we should be chanting is: “We weren’t wrong, we were just early”.

The writer holds stock in Seeing Machines.

Takeover thesis maintained as Seeing Machines dominates global driver monitoring market

Despite the ongoing market falls, my sources (note the plural) indicate that Seeing Machines is winning ‘everything it goes for’. In particular, I’m expecting confirmation of another sizeable contract win in Japan, another huge one in the US and plenty of very positive Fleet news. Thus, my conviction that Seeing Machines will soon attract a bid remains as strong as ever.

Further contract wins

My sources indicate that another Japan win announcement is very, very close. I hesitate to use the word ‘imminent’ but you get the idea. In addition, I’ve heard a whisper that GM has awarded a huge Lidar contract for Ultra Cruise and thus expect that Seeing Machines will soon be getting confirmation of a huge contract. I anticipate this to occur within a couple of months.

I’m also expecting Seeing Machines to win Toyota and announce further expansions with Ford and Stellantis in due course. Lastly, the significance of the recent win of Renault via Qualcomm’s 3rd Generation Snapdragon cockpit platform shouldn’t be ignored. What it indicates is that Seeing Machines will be in every car that has Qualcomm’s system.

In addition, I hear Fleet is doing very well and there will soon be some significant announcements regarding aftermarket sales and a further partnership that should enable it to scale up the introduction of its driver monitoring technology in Europe to comply with the forthcoming safety legislation. 

Clearly, despite the gyrations in its share price, the business is clearly going from strength to strength. That is certainly a claim made by company executives themselves in recent interviews, such as this one with Nick Di Fiore who heads up automotive but also this video with CEO Paul McGlone. It is backed up by leading independent industry analyst Colin Barnden of Semicast Research, as well as financial analysts from a growing number of brokers; Cenkos, Panmure Gordon, Berenberg, Stifel and Peel Hunt.

In short, my thesis that Seeing Machines takes 75% by value of the global DMS/OMS  auto market remains fully intact, a market that could be worth A$1bn in 2025. That figure ignores the market represented by trucks, trams, trains and aviation – global markets in which Seeing Machines is set to dominate.

I, therefore, maintain that a near-term bid for Seeing Machines is very likely – regardless of the state of the overall stock market. (Regarding macro projections, I’ve been a long-term fan of Albert Edwards insightful analysis and would urge every investor to follow him. He has long been castigated as a ‘bear’ but in my opinion he is a realist, and investors are now coming to realise that.)

Seeing Machines is the global leader in one of the hottest areas in a very hot tech sector. It’s partnering with tech behemoths who are led by very smart people. They won’t pass up the opportunity to acquire Seeing Machines. Though they could well face competition from private equity players with a trillion dollars of dry powder.

Peel Hunt note on M&A activity

This very week Peel Hunt issued a note entitled, ‘Accelerating UK bid activity’, written by Charles Hall, Head of Research and Clyde Lewis, Deputy Head of Research. Although it focuses on companies in the FTSE 250, I think there is a read-across for quality companies on AIM. 

Here’s an extract from the note:

“A classic indicator of a disconnect between short-term concerns and longer-term opportunity is when non-equity investors start to buy the assets. This is clearly happening, with 10 bids for FTSE 250 companies progressing currently. This is unsurprising given the de-rating of the FTSE 250, with the overall index-18% YTD and 80% of the members down on the year. This has driven heightened interest from overseas and private buyers. There have been 14 proposed and announced bids in the past six weeks, adding up to £21bn of equity value.”

Discussing the themes for investors to consider, the note goes on to state: 

“The pace has clearly accelerated after a slow start. There is a clear focus on hard assets, with most of the businesses being acquired having strong market positions with clear and lasting cash flow credentials. The mix of financial and corporate buyers reflects the strength of balance sheets, access to funding, and the ability to look through a tough economic environment. Weaker sterling should also increase the appetite from overseas.” 

I’d urge investors to do their own research as I’m not Nostradamus, just a journalist. That said, it’s undeniable that investors are still ignoring the oh-so-clear value to be had in Seeing Machines.

Cheer up

With all the terrible things going on in the world I’ve found that watching interviews with the legendary journalist and political analyst Anthony Howard has greatly cheered me up this week.

If that doesn’t float your boat, why not watch Queen performing We are the Champions at Live Aid in 1985. It’s a song that will make a fitting anthem for investors in this company when it is bought for billions. I dedicate it to all investors in Seeing Machines and its hardworking and talented staff.

The writer holds stock in Seeing Machines.

Growing broker coverage for Seeing Machines

Seeing Machines is picking up more broker coverage from quality analysts as it nears an inflection point from growing license fee income from autos and trucks. Berenberg today issued an initiation note with a ‘Buy’ recommendation and a price target of 12p, while Peel Hunt has also tipped SEE. 

Berenberg 12p target

While Berenberg’s price target is quite conservative, the arguments and conclusions contained within the note were reassuring as they confirmed that:

  • Seeing Machines has the “best-in-class DMS technology among peers”.
  • Aftermarket (Fleet) product is a hidden gem. “Guardian…is considered a top product by customers such as Shell, Caterpillar and National Express, who say it has significantly reduced their traffic accidents and cut their transport insurance premiums.”
  • Stellar growth from auto license fees is a near certainty. “As we expect royalty revenues to more than double yoy from 2022E up until 2025E (c113% CAGR), we see an inflection point for the OEM business and for SEE. To top it off, all the revenue projected up until 2024 has already been awarded (ie as long as the cars are manufactured, SEE will hit these revenue forecasts).” 

This extract from the Berenberg note is worth quoting at length:

OEM business (c60% of 2025E sales) at an inflection point: SEE receives royalty revenue each time a car using its DMS technology is produced. We expect this revenue to more than double every year from 2022E to 2025E (c113% CAGR) based mostly on contracts already awarded. This is, however, assuming just a 33% win rate for SEE and a c25% drop in per-car royalty revenue over 2022-25E. Our channel checks provide a high level of confidence that the group has unparalleled DMS technology, with capabilities to power other smart car features as well (eg occupant monitoring), which along with the regulatory tailwinds mandating DMS should bring about an inflection point for the group’s OEM business. In a blue-sky scenario where SEE has a higher win rate (60% by 2025E) and maintains pricing power (by releasing more features), we see c65%/95% upside to our 2025E group base-case top-line/gross profit estimates. With SEE winning 46% of recent bids, the blue-sky scenario is within reach.”

Note that in its base case for 2025, Berenberg has sales at A$137m and gross profit at A$84m.

In the blue-sky case, Berenberg has sales at A$225m and gross profit at A$163m.

Personally, I expect upward revisions to this very soon as my base case is 70%.

Peel Hunt tips Seeing Machines

Separately, Peel Hunt analysts in their regular ‘Tech: Bits & Bytes’ note recommended Seeing Machines as “a pick-and-shovel play for the smartification of transport”.  

They added: “Seeing Machines is finally starting to see non-NRE OEM revenue’s come through. As the OEM engagements evolve, ARM-like high margin royalty revenue streams should unlock for Seeing Machines.”

Seeing Machines now has broker coverage from Stifel (house), Cenkos, Panmure Gordon and Berenberg, while it is clear that Peel Hunt is clearly following the story closely. As Seeing Machines picks up more auto contracts and grows fleet, not to mention Aviation (and possibly starts to move into other markets, such as marine), I believe this will re-rate. 

Yes, SEE is well down with market jitters. Yet, I’m more convinced than ever that Seeing Machines is likely to be the subject of a bid within the next few months. There is no need for it to show a profit as the coming revenues and profits are clearly coming as license fees ramp up.

Ukraine

As to Ukraine, I think there is scope for negotiation that will reduce tension provided the US and NATO stop trying to bully Russia in its own backyard, using Ukraine as a stick (though that stick got a bit smaller yesterday). Tariq Ali has written great analysis in the New Left Review that puts the recent moves in perspective – though you won’t see him being interviewed on any mainstream media news outlet in the UK.

I’m certainly concerned about a proper stock market crash later this year, as inflation concerns give way to deflation and the growing realisation that only debt is holding the wider stock market up. So Seeing Machines, my advice is to get the deal done by June.

The writer holds stock in Seeing Machines.