I do not beg to differ. I just differ. No begging required. Investing in stocks only works because people have different opinions. Argumentative types fight the very thing that makes the markets work. I enjoy the fact that I don’t have to defend my choices to the rest of the investors. Every stock includes drama. Story stocks do so even more so. MicroVision always manages to create a cacophony. But, isn’t that usually the case with disruptive ideas? In any case, real or virtual ear plugs have their place. But listening is far more valuable.
MicroVision, oh MicroVision. How long have we known each other? Let me check my records. January 2000. Ah, those were the days. The stock (MVIS) dropped in late 1998 and late 1999. The rest of the market looked like a bubble, but MVIS had a fresh idea that might propel it higher as others fell. Oops. It dropped. I bought. I listened to the promising words. It dropped. I bought. Repeat that pattern for years. Then came the change. A CEO that was excellent on rhetoric but not on disclosure and performance was replaced with a CEO who seemed competent, honest and open. The hurdles were revealed. A new plan was in place. I bought. And bought. And bought. Friends bought. And the stock continued to fall. That got embarrassing and MVIS became a topic to avoid. But hey, there was good news. The revealed hurdles were being cleared. Green lasers were a key. Then their cost was key. Then their production volumes were key. The hurdles are all behind us now, right?
I invest in stocks in dramatic companies. Sometimes they don’t seem dramatic at the time. Maybe never. Few folks know f5 Networks. I bought FFIV as it fell during the bubble. Bought more. Bought more. And some of those share that I bought were less than $5 before the stock split. Those shares became the downpayment for my house. The stock continued to rise. On Friday it closed at over $114. (If I’d held those shares I could buy my home for cash. So it goes.) Other stocks seem dramatic along their entire history. America Online started out as AMER. It and the stock were in the news almost every day for years. By the time I sold my shares, AMER became AOL and my profits rose over 2,400%. (Details in my book, Dream. Invest. Live.) I wish I’d bought more. As it was, AOL funded a bicycle ride across America, and a lot more.
MVIS is dramatic, and it is too easy to become too dramatic about it. I can’t recall company with such a small market cap inspiring such impassioned debates, unless they were involved in stem cell treatments (e.g. ASTM). I run counter to conventional wisdom by thinking that emotion can benefit investing; but I agree with conventional wisdom that too much of a good thing is not necessarily good.
Time is a great dampener of emotions. Many investors were eager for last week’s MicroVision conference call. It was listened to, parsed, analyzed, and transcribed. After a quick check to make sure nothing truly dramatic was involved, I stepped away before listening to it. Life presented far more appealing options in the meantime.
We hear what we want to hear. Welcome to being human. For anyone interested in investing (and if you aren’t, I’m amazed you’ve read this far), conference calls and stockholder meetings (aka CCs and ASMs) are free views into management’s management of the company. If you own shares, you own a slice of the company. They work for you. They have to tell you what’s happening – heavily filtered by a competitive screen, or regulations and legalese.
I heard good and bad reviews of MVIS’s call. Then I applied a simple trick. I listened to the replay and took notes. You are welcome to gasp at my sophisticated tools. (How’s your sarcasm detector?)
Did you already click on the link, or are you waiting for my insights? If you are a MVIS shareholder, think about your answer. The call takes less than 34 minutes. Considering the amount of time you can save by improving your financial condition, listening has a very favorable cost/benefit ration. Aren’t we really investing to find more free time?
The managers on the call did a fine job. I can see why some shareholders are enthusiastic. I must differ. While I am not required to defend my position, allow me to point out some disquieting aspects of the call, as well as why I’ll retain some optimism.
A comment was made at last year’s ASM (check my post of more extensive notes.) “What will success for management look like a year from now? “We need a company to bring a product to market” ” We also heard that they were working with five major OEMs and that they expected to announce one or two more deals soon. In this conference call (aka CC) they pointed out the two deals. One was with a Fortune Global 100 company and the other dealt with car components. I’m reasonably sure that I’m not the only shareholder that read “deal” as “product”. Oops. Evidently, development deals are sufficient for management. In the call they mentioned they will be prepared for high volume production in 2H14, for the holiday season, but probably not the North American holiday season. That bizarre bit of wordsmithing sounds more like a dodge than information. They also offered in the Q&A that about half of the original potential customers remain. That suggests at least half of the original possible revenue streams have been reset by months or years.
The good news is that MicroVision is set to produce hundreds of thousand of units for the second half of 2014. Good. But that they may have to take on the risk of enabling that production. Not as good. They can ramp up within three to four months. Great. But that sounds like 2015 at the earliest. Really? I’ve been sitting here since 2000. Ugh. Patience, lad.
A few other notes were notable to a wordsmith. Sony (SNE) was usually named by pronoun, “They” did this or that, just like in the press release. If Sony is locking down mentioning MicroVision, it is not an enthusiastic endorsement. The CEO started with “Y’all know”, which suggests an expectation of the same investors instead of new interest. The company won’t provide financial guidance, but they do look forward to continuing their momentum; but they didn’t put those two together to realize that extrapolating a negative number does not provide a good result.
And yet, I am optimistic; though not as much so as before.
MicroVision only “needs a company to bring a (successful) product to market”. Present value based on present revenue doesn’t justify MVIS’ price. Present value based on EO14 possible revenue is still far less than the stellar hundreds of dollars per share estimates. If MicroVision optimistically made $10 on 500,000 units and the market gave MVIS a P/E of 20, the price is still only $3.14 (based on 31,840,000 shares). (And yes, check my math. We’re all in this together.) That sounds dire. But, multiply that by 10. According to one caller, Sony is guiding for more than 10,000,000 green laser units. Sony isn’t the only customer. The pre-split market cap listing criterion would put the share price at $40. If, if, MicroVision succeeds with more than one customer and multiple products per customer then the multipliers become significant.
The message I really heard though was from the notes I took. Except for the financial report (which I am glad they provided), there were very few quantifiable statements. If I edited out the letters and only looked at the numbers the file contains years and lumens. The CEO closed with the fact that the company had “strong measurable progress”, but we shareholders weren’t provided with that data. The data we received was of losses. I no longer expect sudden relief from any financial woes via a near-term MVIS share price, except via the irrationality of the markets.
I listened and I find myself differing with many of the declared views. The pessimists are too pessimistic. The optimists are too optimistic, for me for now. That’s okay. That’s the way the market works. I also remember one time when I disagreed with everyone else and was wrong. I attended an FFIV shareholders’ meeting. I listened to the CEO’s product strategy, and decided that the company had reached the peak of its growth. I sold enough shares then to sustain me for years now. Evidently, I missed one key phrase that made all the difference. Listening to everything, not just the parts that fit a nice narrative, is most important. So, I won’t beg your pardon as I go back and listen to the community again before deciding to do anything.