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

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

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

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

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

He wrote: 

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

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

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

My personal view

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The writer holds stock in Seeing Machines

Seeing Machines to hit 3m cars on the road this year

Yesterday, Seeing Machines released its latest quarterly KPIs. These included very positive numbers for cars on the road with its driver monitoring tech. Indeed, I believe it is set to pass the 3m figure by the end of this calendar year, leaving Smart Eye far behind. (Literally in its rear view mirror).

The reason I’m so confident of that is because production of the VW models with its tech have begun, and VW churns out over 3m cars in Europe every year, never mind globally. 

Production of Seeing Machines Gen 3 Aftermarket product have also started, so I’m expecting a very healthy ramp up of revenues for that. 

With auto royalties increasing, auto extensions expanding long term production figures, and Aftermarket revenues set to swell, hitting its year end forecasts seems assured. This is particularly the case as my sources confirm management are laser focused on reducing costs to ensure it hits cash flow breakeven on a monthly basis in the next financial year. 

Breakeven confirmed

Paul McGlone, Seeing Machines CEO yesterday confirmed this, stating categorically: “We have worked hard this past quarter to remove cost from our business as part of our disciplined approach and rigorous operational focus. As we see our high-margin royalty revenues increase, we reiterate we are on track to meet FY2024 expectations and achieve a cash break-even run rate during FY2025.”

Certainly, house broker Stifel seems very confident. Yesterday, its analyst Peter McNally put out a note summarising the positives:

  • “The highlight of Seeing Machines Q324 KPIs (Jan-March ’24) are Automotive production volumes which are up 51% or more than 105k to c.313k in just three months (+80% y/y). This is welcome news after a still healthy but slightly slower Q224 and is likely to affect the shares positively, in our view.
  • The news comes with further reiteration from the company that it is on track to meeting FY24 (to June) expectations and continues to expect a cash flow break- even run rate during FY25. We make no changes to estimates as we approach year end but see this as positive given its main competitor recently pushed out its breakeven potential target by up to six months.
  • The shares remain one of our top picks within the sector as we approach regulatory mandates for all new vehicle types in the EU. We think investors should take advantage of the current price given the shares trade at 4.1x EV/ Sales for FY24E or 3.1x for FY25E. Buy.”

He maintains his target price of 15p. 

I’m still confident that with news of more contracts very likely, the share price has a lot further to rise before the end of June.

The writer holds stock in Seeing Machines.

Is Seeing Machines set to be a 10-bagger?

Seeing Machines has hit a 3-year low but my research leads me to believe that it will announce contract news before the end of the current financial year that should catapult it well into double figures. Inside the next year I’m hoping it will become a ten-bagger.

Mr Market is looking in the rear view mirror instead of focusing on the direction of travel; near-term profitability and years of profitable growth ahead across Auto, Aftermarket and Aviation. 

Yes, anticipated auto contracts have been delayed but through no fault of Seeing Machines. According to my sources delays have been caused by haggling between Tier 1s and the OEMs. Nothing to do with the superlative technology of SEE. As the OEMs need a quick solution I anticipate the delay will be overcome soon.

Nevertheless, I’m still expecting auto contract wins before the end of this financial year, probably with Japanese OEMs. These should be sizeable contracts and one name that keeps on popping up is Honda, but I’m optimistic we win another too. Japanese OEMs are behind the curve on interior sensing and Seeing Machines could help improve their position.

I’m also expecting to see some decent Aftermarket contracts announced. A big name client could have a huge impact so I would be grateful if it’s not buried in an RNS on the grounds of an NDA.

As positive news comes out many PIs will be tempted to sell, some may need to. Yet, I think the momentum will continue, driven by auto KPIs, aviation products being developed with Collins Aerospace, and a growing realisation that Seeing Machines is going to be profitable on a monthly cashflow basis during the 2025 financial year. This was confirmed by Peter McNally, an analyst for house broker Stifel, in a recent interview with Safestocks.

That momentum, accelerated by broker upgrades, should enable holders to experience the joys of holding a ten-bagger within a year from now.

Of course, nothing is certain. Especially with two ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, not to mention some sectors of the US stock market in bubble territory. So, do your own research and  always question assumptions.

The writer holds stock in Seeing Machines.

Seeing Machines set to become cash flow positive in FY2025

In an exclusive interview with Safestocks, Stifel technology analyst Peter McNally has confirmed that his view is that Seeing Machines does not require a fundraise and is set to become cashflow positive, on a monthly basis, in the 2025 financial year (FY2025).

Peter McNally, took over coverage of Seeing Machines at Stifel (house analyst) five months ago but he has known the company for a number of years. I think his insights will prove invaluable. I’m presenting my questions and Peter McNally’s answers in a Q&A format to preserve the integrity of his answers.

Q&A with Peter McNally

Q. Regarding the H1 2024 Trading Update & Quarterly KPIs, what was your view?

Firstly, the KPIs look good to me. They are the only company out there that is actually doing any normal KPIs and providing transparency. The cars on the road number at 1.5m is a great milestone to reach. We know it is just the beginning. The numbers themselves look very healthy, we’re not changing estimates or anything like that.

What we saw was that everything is in line. We wondered if the headline number of 5% growth was going to dissuade any folks. We tried to call out on our note that they are not making excuses for themselves by stating that the underlying growth is 28%, if you take out that Magna exclusivity licence. It is actually quite valid because that 28% growth is more around royalties, boxes, monitored connections and that license really is kind of a one-off.

That was 28% growth in the first half. Based on our estimates, to hit the full year numbers they have to move from US$26.5m in the first half to US$40m in the second half. That sounds like a big number but for them it is actually not. Typically, the company revenues are 40% first half weighted and 60% second half weighted — to get to our number assumes 61% weighting in the second half. That is pretty much in line with typical seasonality. You also have to keep in mind that you have some sales that were done of the Gen 3 Guardian product on the back of CES and, as regulatory deadlines approach, there will be demand for more services. 

Their existing launches are still ramping, so we think that is good news. If you were to do it on a like-for-like basis, it assumes the second half grows at 20% and they just did 28% in the first half. So we’re pretty comfortable with it.

Regarding the cash position, we’re also comfortable with that given that we expect a $14m increase in revenues in the second half while the costs are virtually the same. There is about $1m increase between this year’s costs and last year’s costs, and I am talking cash cost not just income statement costs. 

The cash costs for this business in FY2024 are, in my estimates, only about $1m more  than they are in 2023 but revenue rises by $7.9m. The company hasn’t cut its cost structure by much, it’s just that the revenues are coming through. That is what reduces the cash burn down to a very low level, along with $5.5m of receivables and inventory unwind in the second half. They are saying somewhere between $5-6m.

Q. So there is no reason for a raise this calendar year?

A. There is no reason for a raise at all, so far as I can see. Unless they wanted to. They are on track to be profitable next year. It’s not a shoo in, they’ve certainly got their work cut out for them. It all looks like it’s going to plan, so we’re not worried.

Q. When exactly do you expect Seeing Machines to be cash flow positive?

A. Our estimates assume that on an operational basis in FY2025 they will do operating cash flow of just over $21m but we think they will spend about that amount on capitalisation and hardware as well. We have a small net cash outflow of about US$1m for FY2025. However, on a monthly run-rate basis, they will become cash flow positive during fiscal 2025, but we haven’t put out the exact month.

Q. Is there a likelihood that they might want to make an acquisition? For instance, to add more features to their auto offering?

A. I would say that at the moment they are 100% focused on the business that they have at hand. That doesn’t mean that they are not opportunistic. If something were to come up I’m sure they would have a look at it. But I don’t think acquisitions are on the radar screen at the moment. Maybe they might be, further down the line. Could it be some form of geographical expansion, I think that’s possible. 

In terms of features they are in the driving seat. They are the one who is developing the features in the marketplace. I don’t think they need to buy in any features, I think they can develop them themselves. If there’s a short cut to development time that’s always a consideration, but I don’t think that’s in their mind at the moment.

Q. In terms of a US listing I hear a lot of chatter. However, if they do decide to go down that path isn’t it much further down the line, say 18 months to 2 years away?

A. There are many people who have suggested a US listing at some stage. Will they do it? I don’t know. I guess they could consider it but I think they have a lot of ground to cover before they would consider something like that. I think they are focused on making this business work right now rather than another listing.

Two years from now they might be in a very comfortable position, where the royalties are just rolling in. If they were to consider a US listing I think it is much further down the line.

The writer holds shares in Seeing Machines.