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

‘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

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

Seeing Machines storms CES

All the news coming out of CES is very positive for Seeing Machines and I’m more confident than ever that it’s on target to take 75% of the global DMS market over the next few years. (Naturally, Seeing Machines itself and its broker Cenkos prefer to state a target of 30-40% publicly).

The tie-up with Qualcomm was probably the highlight of the show for me and it’s great to hear that they’re both working with a “global premium automaker”. It has been suggested it is a new OEM, if it is I assume a more detailed RNS will eventually be published.

Yet the partnership with Qualcomm, apparently at the latter’s instigation, may also be much more significant than many realise. It opens the possibility of marrying industry leading eye-tracking with chips that can go inside mobile devices and VR/AR headsets. It is potentially a huge opportunity and some speculate that a lucrative licence deal is possible for Seeing Machines. (If so, let’s hope it arrives sooner than the “imminent” Aviation licencing deal that we are still waiting for!).

Further out, robots/cars should soon be capable of displaying empathy using eye-tracking that can also interpret cognitive load/read facial gestures.

With EU safety legislation now law, and other countries set to follow Europe’s lead, the near-term future is increasingly bright for SEE. Indeed, this is a company that should be worth billions right now.

Volvo

Strangely, though, there has been silence re. Volvo. My industry contacts tell me it has finally decided who will be supplying its DMS and I’m pretty confident it will be Seeing Machines as it’s the only system that can accurately tell if a driver is incapacitated – a feature teased by Volvo in early 2019.

I expect it will first feature in the 2021/22 Volvo XC90 but Volvo are staying tight lipped as are Seeing Machines and the likely Tier 1, Bosch.

While the share price has been motoring, the next trading update (expected in a week or so) should provide further proof that fleet is set to comfortably beat full-year estimates.

This is a stock on the move and I’m increasingly confident that a huge re-rating is just a matter of weeks away.

The writer holds stock in Seeing Machines.

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.

The Pretenders are dead, long live the King of DMS

At yesterday’s Capital Markets Day for Seeing Machines it was standing room only, as Colin Barden an independent analyst at Semicast Research presented the news that investors in Seeing Machines have long waited to hear: though the coronation has been delayed, it will be the King of DMS.

It was hard news for rivals but, in one slide, Barnden presented his projections for the market shares come 2022. He estimates 40-45% for Seeing Machines, followed by 15-20% for Mitsubishi Electric. All other rivals are left lagging far, far behind, with Smart Eye in particular estimated at 5-7%.

That said, I saw no evidence of complacency from the Seeing Machines staff, quite the reverse. McGlone, in particular, came across as a man determined to deliver profitable growth. He certainly doesn’t look like the sort of guy who will let a rival eat his lunch.

Paul McGlone, CEO, Seeing Machines

Paul McGlone, CEO, Seeing Machines

The growing interest in its DMS technology was clear from the host of analysts I met at the event: Sanjay Jha of Panmure Gordon, Lorne Daniel at FinnCap, Caspar Trenchard at Canaccord Genuity and even one from Steifel (there may well have been others). I’m sure the house broker Cenkos was represented but house analyst Jean-Marc Bunce was the invisible man on this occasion.

Fleet

Probably, a wise decision on Bunce’s part as I’ve been trying to find out why he’s taken such a conservative stance on fleet. In his note dated 23rd September he states on page 1: “We believe the guidance for 27-30k connections at the end of FY20 is conservative and underpinned by a strong pipeline.”

Yet on page 4, he contradicts this, becoming ultra conservative, when he writes: “….our Fleet connection forecasts are based on connections below the guidance of 27-30k”.

I wondered why he decided to do this and also upon what number of fleet connections he actually based his projected revenue figure of A$20.9m? By my calculations to arrive at A$20.9m he must have used less than 18,000 installations, which does appear excessively low.

Yesterday the new CEO, Paul McGlone was in combative mood as he faced down attempts to extract projections on the number of Fleet sales for 2020, sticking to guidance of 27-30k. He even declined to provide a current figure. I assume this is because Seeing Machines hopes to upgrade at the interims and doesn’t want to spoil the surprise. Personally, I don’t particularly like surprises even to the upside.

The reduction in the unit cost of Gen 2 Guardian by 21% announced yesterday must surely drive increased uptake from fleets as will the increasing number of distributors and deals with insurers.

Mike Lenne, the Human Factors expert who heads up Fleet does appear to be its secret weapon when it comes to persuading Fleets to use their technology to improve safety. HIs calm, analytical approach should pay dividends and puts Seeing Machines in a league of its own.

It was the first time I’ve met Tim Edwards, one of the original brains behind the technology along with fellow co-founder of the company Sebastien Rougeaux. Edwards comes across as a very modest man, particularly for a genius who jointly developed this life-saving technology.

Aviation

While CEO McGlone and Pat Nolan, who heads up Aviation, were chided slightly for building up expectations re. an aviation licensing deal with CAE and L3 Harris, I got the impression such a deal is at most a 2-3 months away. We’ll see I guess. The great news is that end users (such as Alaska Airlines) are now requesting that manufacturers of full flight simulators now have eye-tracking from Seeing Machines.

Auto

As for Nick DiFiore, who heads up Auto, I’m expecting him to deliver a lot. Volvo for one, VW for another pretty soon. Followed by Japanese OEMs. Oem decision-making has been the main reason for delays up to this point but See does appear remarkably well positioned with Xilinx to grab market share from Nvidia and Mobileye. The fact that Fovio can identify an incapacitated driver makes it a shoo-in for Volvo and parent Geely may well have decided it needs it too.

The US market really needs to hear this in its own accent and so it was good to be told by Paul McGlone that it will be getting a US broker. I do hope it is Morgan Stanley. I’ve long wished to read/hear Adam Jonas extol the virtues of Seeing Machines.

Overall then, while I would have liked more opportunity and time for detailed questions, I feel that further patience will be handsomely rewarded here. Of course, every investor should do their own research.

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!