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Posts from the ‘RMG Netowrks (RMGN)’ Category

RMG Networks Fourth Quarter Earnings: Still waiting for a step in the top line

I had hoped that RMG Networks would have a blowout fourth quarter.  That didn’t turn out to be the case, but I’m still optimistic about the company and am holding onto my position.

The drag continues to come from the Middle East.  Overall, sales in the fourth quarter were $10.7 million, down from $11.8 million in 2015.  North American sales were up substantially, increasing 25% year over year.  But Middle East sales were down $2.4 million for the quarter year over year, which is just a huge number when you consider that sales for the Middle East were  only $3.4 million for the entire year in 2015.

Below you can see the dynamic.  North American sales have taken off while overall sales have been held back by tough year over year comps in the Middle East.

Now maybe, just maybe this headwind is starting to abate.  First, comps for 2017 are going to be easier because the Middle East generated so little revenue in 2016.   Second, because oil prices are stabilizing they are starting to see things pick up in that region.  On the conference call they said:

I can tell you that obviously we have a plan for every quarter, for each of our geographies and our plan for Q1 for the Middle East we have already completed contractually all the sales required to hit our number for Q1 in the Middle East and that is a dramatic change from 2016

They went on to say they are negotiating another large deal, I believe for the new RMG Max product, with a new customer in the Middle East.  If it closes, the deal would be the “single largest” in the quarter.

The company also provided an update on their partnerships.  It sounds like the Airbus DS Communications partnership (announced in August) has gained the most traction.  The partnership is expected to launch in the first quarter when Airbus releases their next gen 911 system called Vesta which RMG is integrating a display solution with.  They said they had already received $100,000 of orders in advance of the launch.

The Regan partnership, of which I believe the primary motivation is to introduce RMG Networks to new customers, has allowed them to “reach more than 200 companies and have 20 active leads”.

Finally Manhattan, where the update was the least specific of the three, the comments were limited to how the two companies are holding joint webinars and sales training.  Michelsen (the CEO) had said on the third quarter call that they expected to see results with Manhattan in early 2017 but there wasn’t any indication of that on the fourth quarter call.  So we’ll have to watch that one closely to see how it develops.

Overall RMG Networks remains pretty positive about the impact of partnerships.  In response to a question, Michelsen said that achieving 10% of 2017 sales from partnerships was “in the ballpark”.  So we will have to see how 2017 unfolds and whether this forecast holds up.

Finally, the company said the pipeline of sales deals is progressing positively.  The overall size is up about 20% year over year, the larger deal count is up about 1/3 and the average deal size is up 17%.

Overall it was directionally positive quarter, but we need to see this translate into sales.  In my opinion, the first quarter is big.  With the Middle East no longer a headwind, with Europe “improving” and with an expectation of strength in North America, there is no reason that the first quarter won’t be good.  It needs to be or I’m going to start questioning why all the positive “color” is not translating into numbers.  I’m hopeful I won’t have to go there.

Week 294: It doesn’t matter how you get there

Portfolio Performance

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Top 10 Holdings

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See the end of the post for my full portfolio breakdown and the last four weeks of trades

Thoughts and Review

It’s a seminal moment for the blog!  For the first time in what seems like forever my largest position is something other than Radcom.  Thanks to more than doubling in price in the last four months (and even after pulling back from $6 to $5), Identiv now holds that honor.

At the beginning of November I wrote the following about Identiv:

I tweeted a couple of times this morning that I don’t think this stock makes sense at a $20 million market cap… The company has a $55 million trailing twelve month revenue run rate, they are showing growth, they are EBITDA positive now and it’s not an insignificant amount of EBITDA.  That feels like it should warrant at least 1x sales.

We are already at a $55 million market capitalization but with momentum at the company’s back I haven’t sold a share.

A second position, RMG Networks, has also ran up the ladder, and now sits as my fourth largest position at a little less than 5%.

I wrote this about RMG Networks when I first took the position in late June:

With the focus on the new verticals and improve productivity of the sale force new opportunities in pipeline are up over 40%.  And here is where we start to see an inkling that the strategic shift is bearing fruit.  In the sales pipeline, Michelsen said that the number of deals $100,000 or greater has increased by 50% in the last year while the number of $1 million deals have tripled…My hope is that these early signs of sales improvements lead to an uptick in revenues in short order.

We are starting to see that pipeline bear fruit.  The entire move has come in the last two weeks.  The stock has moved from 70 cents to a dollar on news that they had secured contracts in the healthcare vertical and converted one of their previously announced trials into revenue in the supply chain vertical.

Finally, a third company, Combimatrix, which I wrote about earlier this week, is beginning to run and take a more significant position in my portfolio after releasing solid fourth quarter results.

So that’s all great, but the reason I mention these three examples is because they illustrate how bad I am at predicting how things will play out.   In the second half of last year had you asked me what my portfolio would move on I would have replied it will rise and fall on the fortunes of Radcom and Radisys.

Flash forward a few months and my portfolio has moved significantly higher and Radcom and Radisys have done nothing.  Radisys has actually went backwards to the tune of 20%.  Whodathunkit.

This is why I carry so many positions.   A. I’m a terrible timer.  The events that I think are imminent take months or years to play out, while the events that I think are distant have a habit of manifesting much faster.

Second, my favorite ideas are often not my best one’s.  I have no idea why this is.  If I did I would change my favorite ideas.  But it’s uncanny.  I’ll sit on a thesis like Radisys, work it into the ground to understand it in depth, and then along will come a Health Insurance Innovations, which I will buy on a bare thesis (in this case that the Affordable Health Act will be repealed and this is going to be good for HIIQ) and when the dust settles I’ll have more gains from the latter than the former.  Its kinda crazy.

I guess as long as you are moving in the right direction it doesn’t really matter how you get there.

Portfolio Changes – Adding Silicom

I added a couple of new positions this month.  The Rubicon Project and Silicom.

Silicom got hit after releasing what I thought was a pretty good fourth quarter.  The company traded down to $35 from $39 pre-earnings.  I’ll try to get a more detailed write up out on Silicom at some point, but the basic points are:

  • This is a $250 million market capitalization company with $36 million of cash and no debt
  • It’s trading at a little over 2x revenue and just guided 15% growth in the first quarter and double digit growth for the year
  • Their past seven year compounded annual growth rate is 26% and growth was 21% in 2016.

Silicom designs a wide range (over 300 SKUs) of networking, cybersecurity, telecom and storage products. These are generally board level and appliance level hardware solutions.

They expect their security vertical will grow double digits, their cloud vertical will “grow significantly” and that a contribution from SDWAN will kick-in in 2017 and is expected to become a “major growth area”.  They said that over the intermediate term they see a larger opportunity in their pipeline than they have have in the past.

Already the stock has rebounded on news of a significant contract for encryption cards that will ramp in 2017 and reach $8 million in sales in 2018.

I’ll talk more about Rubicon Project in an upcoming post.

Apart from these new positions I did a bit of tweaking of my positions, adding a little to Nuvectra and Combimatrix, reducing my position in Bsquare and selling out of DSP Group.  I also have added to my Vicor position in the last couple of days (subsequent to the update end so not reflected in this update).

Taking advantage of Bovie Medical Weakness

I also added significantly to my position in Bovie Medical.  The stock sold off on news that their pilot project with Hologics for selling the J-Plasma device would not be extended.    As I tweeted at the time, I didn’t think this was as big of news as the market did.

To expand on my reasoning, Hologics has a particular business model they follow for their instrumentation and disposable business, of which J-Plasma would have been a part (from 10-Q):

we provide our instrumentation (for example, the ThinPrep Processor, ThinPrep Imaging System, Panther and Tigris) and certain other hardware to customers without requiring them to purchase the equipment or enter into a lease. Instead, we recover the cost of providing the instrumentation and equipment in the amount we charge for our diagnostic tests and assays and other disposables.

So they go “full razor blade”.  Bovie on the other hand, generates significant sales from generators.   The average selling price (ASP) for a generator is much higher than hand piece so Bovie generates a significant slice of their revenue from it.  From the 2015 fourth quarter conference call :

I guess when you think about it, the generator ASP is north of $20,000, the hand piece ASP is $375

So the models aren’t aligned.

Second, Hologic’s Gyn Surgical business segment (consisting of the NovaSure Endometrial Ablation System and our MyoSure Hysteroscopic Tissue Removal System) is a $400 million business so J-Plasma is microscopic for them.  They may not have been inclined to bend their model for Bovie.

Also worth noting is that Hologics wasn’t even mentioned in the Bovie 10-Q whereas the agreement with Arteriocyte that was mentioned favorably.

Finally the language used on the third quarter conference call around Hologics wasn’t exactly definitive:

Well, as you know, the sales channel partnership with Hologic,right now,is in a pilot phase.  So we wouldn’t be in a position, if we were to disclose the economic relationship, until that’s a permanent agreement.  So the pilot portion of our partnership will go until the end of February.  So you could look at some period after that before we can announce a permanent relationship and we’ll decide at that point in time if we’re going to elaborate on the economics of the relationship.

The agreement with Hologics hadn’t generated material revenue so there is no hit to the bottom line.  And in a separate press release (which oddly was released on the same day as the Hologics information but didn’t get on their website for a couple days after), Bovie reiterated guidance for 2017, including “accelerated growth for J-Plasma”.

I think the stock sold off in the following couple of days because its small, illiquid and under followed, not because this agreement was meaningful to the company.  So I bought.

Portfolio Composition

Click here for the last four weeks of trades.

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Third Quarter Earnings Updates: WLDN and RMGN

Willdan

Willdan has put together a number of good quarters in a row and did not disappoint in the third quarter.

Earnings were 28c per share and revenue was $58 million. Revenue was at a similar level to the second quarter but up 75% over the prior year.  Though part of the revenue increase was due to acquisitions, organic growth played a big part as well. Organic growth is up 30% year to date.

Willdan’s strategy has been to expand by acquiring small engineering services firms with complementary skills that operate in areas that expand Willdan’s reach.  These acquisitions have been Genesys Engineering,  Abucus Resource Management and 360 Energy.  The expectation is that the more complete services package will allow them to bid on contracts they previously would not have been able to.

The strategy has worked.  In the third quarter Genesys generated $16.2 million of revenue, up from $8 million the previous year.

Willdan also provided a robust update of projects in the early stages.  They named the following new programs that are ramping in the third and fourth quarter of this year:

  • 6 year $90 million LCR program for SGD&E announced in March is expected to ramp in 2017
  • 2.5 year, $41 million multi-family program for ConEd, announced in June, continues to ramp, will make a larger contribution next year
  • 3 year, $35 million contract, small/medium business direct install and industrial program for PacifiCorp in Utah, will contribute a little in revenue this year, ramp in 2017
  • 2 year $10 million clean energy program in New Jersey will contribute a little this year and ramp 2017
  • NYC housing program is beginning to contribute a “modest amount”, and is “expected to increase considerably next year” – they only have notice to proceed on small amount of the program right now, expect to know more about the timeline by year end

All the major ongoing programs are expected to remain in place in 2017.  With only a few small projects rolling off, 2017 will almost assuredly be a growth year.  The company put a “minimum public target” for growth of 10% for next year.

Also mentioned on the call was the improving growth landscape in California.  Right now in California 20% of energy efficiency services are outsourced by utilities.  The total ultities budget is around $1.8 billion.  The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has mandated across the board that outsourced volumes needs to exceed 60%, and they have used language that they would like to see it  “as high as 100%”.  This will “dramatically increase the market as new procurements are initiated”.  Basically it is a 3-fold to 5-fold increase in contracted services.  Willdan will be well positioned to take some of this business.

Finally the Tom Brisbin, the CEO, made comments about how he would like to expand the company into more industrial projects, specifically oil and gas and refining.  Industrial end users are larger users of electricity.  The amount of savings per user will be higher and so these will be larger contracts.  Given past history, an acquisition in this area would not surprise me.

I was tempted to add to my position in the stock, but its already quite large.

RMG Networks

RMG Networks had what I would consider pretty decent results, and the color on the conference call was very positive.  Yet the stock has floundered flat to down.

In my opinion investors are being too impatient with the story.  Everyone is looking for a big top line number.  When it doesn’t come they are ignoring what is happening under the surface.

Everything is moving in the right direction: pipeline, partners, pilots, and products.  One of these quarters, maybe even the next one, the momentum will break through to the surface with a big revenue number, $12-$13 million, and it will be off to the races.

The company continues to make inroads into the supply chain vertical.  On the third quarter conference call they said that they had 40 supply chain prospects that were in various stages of negotiation and that the 3 previously mentioned pilots had “been extended” to investigate functionality roll-out in 2017, Each of these pilots can be $1 million of revenue or more.

They also put aside some time to give us more detail on their 3 recently signed partners:

  • Manhattan Associates – Manhattan manages supply chains, sells supply chain products, has 1,300 products, performed account planning in Q3, training to Manhattan sales team, expect initial sales in early 2017
  • Regan Communications – Regan is a leading corporate communications consulting company – are specifically educating and promoting Inview.  The relationship will materially expand reach into the internal communication market.  The partnership kicked off on Sept 29th at Global Employee Communication Conference at Microsoft.  Robert Michelson, Chief Executive Officer was MC for part of event and delivered a keynote presentation.  The presentation demonstrated Inview.  RMG has received 30 new leads on Inview from summit
  • Airbus DS Communications – Airbus is a 911 call leader, 60% of 911 calls are received by Airbus. A new RMG-Airbus solution puts real time data displays into the Airbus system.  RMG closed their first two Airbus customers in Q3 for $100,000 in revenues.  There are a total of 2,800 Airbus customers.

They believe these channel partners can generate $5-$10 million of revenue annually once they are trained and ramped.

Michelson also reiterated that large deals in the pipeline have “increased dramatically” over the past couple of quarters.

Looking at geographical strength, the United States and Europe have been strong but the Middle East has not.  Michelson said with regard to the Middle East that (I’m paraphrasing here):

[We have] orders in the millions but need to see the down payments, the customer has signed the contract… we need things to clear up with the economies there because price of oil has such a disproportionate impact on economy, it gives more beta there.

If oil can return and stay at the $50 level we could see some upside there.  On the other hand at current prices, the Middle East may continue to be a drag on results.

Finally, some color was given on the recently filed S-3.   Michelson was clear that they believed the stock was under priced and any move to raise funds would only be done because growth led to the need for additional working capital.  He said that they would “protect stockholders” and keep them from being diluted, leading me to think it may be a rights offering.   Michelson also said the raise would not be for anywhere near the $10 million shelf that was filed.

I didn’t add to my position but continue to sit tightly.

Week 266: Loving the lack of volatility

Portfolio Performance

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Top 10 Holdings

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See the end of the post for my full portfolio breakdown and the last four weeks of trades

Thoughts and Review

Its been a good market for my approach to investing.  Volatility is low and the market isn’t really making any big moves.  Individual companies are being judged on the merits of their business and the macro picture is taking a back seat.

I believe I have also benefited from being more selective.  As I have written previously, I’m taking fewer flyers, being more suspicious of value, staying away from dividend payers and focusing on growing businesses and emerging trends.

As a result these have been the best couple months that I have had in a while.

I made a number of changes around the edges of my portfolio, adding starter positions in a number of names, reducing position size in others, but I remained relatively constant in spirit: I have two large positions: Radcom and Radisys, and a number of small 2-4% positions where I am waiting for a reason to make them bigger.

With respect to my two biggest positions, nothing was said or reported over the last month, including their second quarter results, that deters me in my allocation.  I will give a quick synopsis of Radcom’s quarter below.  With Radisys I spent a lot of time on them a couple of months ago so I will wait until the next update to say more. In short though, the results were fine, they are engaged with a lot of carriers, they seem extremely confident that those engagements will lead to more deals and we will wait and see what new business the second half brings.

I did add five new positions to my portfolio in the last month.  I’m not sure what it was about this month that made it such a boon for ideas.  It wasn’t because I worked unusually hard to find them.  I just went about my usual process and for some reason kept coming up with interesting stocks.

I’ll talk about 3 of those positions (Bovie Medical, Hudson Technologies and Sientra) in this post.  In the interest of space I will leave the other two, Mattersight and CUI Global, for next month.  This being an August update I have a lot of earnings news I want to talk about and I don’t want things to go overly long (though I suppose it always goes overly long, so relatively anyways).

With that I will cut-off my general comments and get straight to it, starting with some company updates followed by my new positions.

Radcom – waiting on the next deal

Radcom announced results on August 8th but more importantly was a separate news release giving an official endorsement of Radcom’s technology from AT&T along with the recognition of the role Radcom will be playing in AT&T’s open source NFV backbone ECOMP.

The press release from AT&T validates the work that Radcom has done, and should make the company the go-to player for other service providers following in AT&T footsteps with ECOMP.  I have always felt the big risk with Radcom was the execution of such their large and cutting-edge deployment with AT&T and that something went off the rails.  That seems off the table now.

As an aside, I found this webinar, which includes a description by AT&T of what they are trying to accomplish with ECOMP, to be quite useful in trying to understand the platform.

While the second quarter results were inline, on the conference call Radcom’s CEO Yaron Ravkaie made a number of bullish comments.  He said that Radcom was now in discussions with 9 carriers, up from 5 in the first quarter, and that the earlier discussions had progressed positively, with feedback coming back from carriers that “this is exactly what we need and we want to progress with it”.

Interesting new opportunities are also opening up.  Radcom has soft launched a new adjacent product to MaveriQ that Ravkaie called a “very important component of NFV implementation”.  I am assuming this was a joint effort with AT&T to some degree since the product is already being used by AT&T even though they have only started marketing it to other carriers.

A final interesting comment was made at the end of the call when Ravkaie referred to a Tier 1 carrier that was recently in their office in Tel Aviv, their “head of their NFV program spend hours with them”, he went “deep into their NFV strategy” and was interested in “partnering” and “co-creation of cutting edge stuff”.

The negative with the story is timing; we don’t know when the next deal signs and telecom providers are notoriously slow footed.  I felt like Ravkaie was cautious about timing, making the following comment on the second quarter call:

the next coming quarters is going to change some of these into deals, and again I can’t really comment on when it’s going to happen, and on exactly when is the next order is going to come in, because everything is so new, so it’s hard to predict. And because as of the end of the day, big solutions in the telecom’s environment, so it does take time

Nevertheless it remains a great story.  The stock has moved up strongly since earnings.  I’m not sure where it goes in the short run, it all depends on the “when” with the next deal, but I see no reason to believe they won’t get that next deal done at some point.

Willdan looks good

The single sentence story on Willdan is that the company had very strong second quarter results, beat estimates significantly, guided higher for the year, said on the conference call that they have signed contracts that will be deployed in 2017 that they just can’t announce yet, said that revenue in 2017 will show further sequential growth, and said that their micro-grid strategy is taking hold with “increasing evidence to suggest that overall spending on microgrids will increase significantly in the coming years and we are well positioned to capitalize on this emerging market opportunity.”

Willdan reminds me of Argan, which was a little engineering, procurement and construction company that I found on the Greenblatt Magic Formula list back in 2011 (I just checked and its still there!) when the stock was $8.   I bought the stock but sold it a few months later at $14.  Argan continued to run from single digits to almost $50 now on the back of successful growth of their engineering services.

Argan demonstrates how engineering services can be very profitable if you have a team of the right professionals and you are delivering a service along the right trend.  I have said before that I think that we are on the cusp of changes to the power grid that will mirror what we saw first in computing and storage (ala the advent of the datacenter) and currently in telecom service providers (which is why Radcom and Radisys are my biggest positions).  If I am right about that Willdan is positioning itself to be in the middle of the build-out.

Oclaro was fine but Infinera made it a bit of a debacle

Oclaro had an excellent quarter, beating estimates and putting out strong growth guidance which was good news.  Unfortunately I only held about half the position that I had only a few days before.

I got turned around by a report out of Needham entitled “Optical Super Cycle”.  I don’t get Needham research, but I caught wind of a report they had in mid-July that described an optical upgrade super-cycle and managed to get my hands on it. Its compelling; the explosion of data is causing metro, long-haul and data-center interconnect to require upgrades simultaneously.

Its exactly the reason I am in Oclaro.  But after being convinced by Needham, I felt like I needed more.  So I went with one of their recommendations, a company called Infinera that seemed to be well positioned in long-haul, had the ability to take market share in metro, and wasn’t expensive compared to its peers.  No problem right?

Well Infinera announced results three days later and gave probably the worst guidance I have EVER seen.  Ever.   The company guided third quarter revenues of $180-$190 million versus Capital IQ consensus of $271 million.

This caused a couple of things to happen.  First I lost a large chunk of my investment in Infinera.  Second, it really shook my confidence in Oclaro, which is a much larger investment for me.  After some back and forth I decided to cut the position in Oclaro in half.

My reasoning hear was admittedly a bit suspect.  Infinera didn’t appear to be a big Oclaro customer.  Oclaro has significant business in China, a market where I don’t think Infinera plays at all.  The evidence from the call was that much of Infinera’s problems were internal, in particular that they weren’t gaining share in the metro market like they had anticipated and that a recent acquisition wasn’t bearing expected fruits.  Nevertheless what Infinera’s disaster highlighted to me is something that I have always worried about with Oclaro; that I will be the last to know when the optical cycle turns, and that these cycles turn quickly.

Well Oclaro announced their results and they were stellar.  Both their results and those of some others suggest that the cycle hasn’t turned yet.  Oclaro said they expect at least 30% growth in 2017.  Gross margins are expected to expand into the mid-30s from the high 20’s they were only a quarter ago.  Their 100G transceiver business has doubled in the last year.  The company is well positioned with the two vendors in China (Huawei and ZTE) where their growth depends.   The stock has continued to go up since, nearly hitting $7 on Friday.

But I can’t add.  I’ll stick with my half position but that’s it.   The cyclicality scares me, in particular the fact that they don’t really get to pass through price increases even when the cycle is in their favor, so the benefit is all volume and when the cycle ends or when inventory builds they will be smacked.   Needham could very well be right and maybe that doesn’t happen for 3+ years.  But I haven’t been able to put together enough knowledge to feel really confident about that.   So I think I’ll just leave that one as is.

What is going on with BSquare and DataV is interesting

Here is why I added to BSquare.   They had a crappy quarter. The stock tanked.  The company has a market capitalization of $54 million but subtracting cash the enterprise value is only $27 million.  The market has left them for dead but I’m seeing data pointing to how their new DataV product might on the cusp of taking-off.

Right now DataV has one announced customer, a $4.3 million 3 year contract with an industrial company.  Because this company is so small, and because DataV has 70% margins, it won’t take many contracts to be meaningful.

In my last blog post I highlighted a career opportunity I read about on the BSquare site.    In particular I noted the following language in one of the sales job postings:

Bsquare is investing significantly in marketing demand generation tied to its industry leading DataV IoT platform.  Market response has overwhelmed our current sales capacity, and we are looking for proven inside sales dynamos to join our team

I thought that was pretty positive.  Last week I went and looked at the job postings again.  There were a bunch of new one’s for android developers but also I found they updated the posting I referenced before, (its here) with the following additional language about responsibilities:

Responsible for making 30-70+ outbound calls (including follow up) per day to inbound leads

I don’t know if this is saying what it reads, but an inbound lead should be a company that has first contacted BSquare, so 30-70+ calls to those leads is an awful lot.  Are they exaggerating?  Or is there that much interest in the product?

They also quietly published this interview on their website, describing the integration of DataV with a heavy-duty truck environment.   Whats confusing about this is that there was a question on the first quarter call that suggested to me that the one DataV customer they had was VF Corp, which is not a trucking or industrial company.

The company has like zero following.  There were no questions at all on the last conference call.  The only intelligent questions I’ve heard in the last few calls is some private investor named Chris Cox who I am presently trying to hunt down (feel free to drop me a line if you read this Chris!).  I don’t think anyone cares about this name.  Maybe there is good reason for that.  But maybe not.

RMG Networks – will have to wait another quarter for the inflection

RMGN results were somewhat lackluster, the CEO had said that they would be growing revenues sequentially from here on out on the first quarter call and that didn’t happen. Revenues were flat, the issue was that the international business lagged and some timing of sales issues.  In particular it sounded like the Middle East was down a lot sequentially.

So it wasn’t a great press release but the color on the call was very positive.  In a separate news release they said they had a sales agreement with Manhattan Associates and gave further color on that relationship on the call.  RMG Networks had previously been something called a bronze partner with Manhattan which meant they would be recommended by sales if it came up but there was no compensation to the sales staff for any sales they created.  The new agreement integrates them into the selling package, most importantly now is that sales gets commission on the RMG products that they sell.  Because the products are complimentary this is expected to drive sales.  Manhattan Associates is a supply chain solution company so the partnership is right in line with what RMGN is trying to expand into and is also a $4B company so much bigger than RMGN.

They also said they have similar relationships that have been agreed to in principle but are not press releaseable quite yet with two other partners.

The second positive is that the 3 supply chain trials that they have referred to in the previous quarter has progressed into the purchase phase.  We should start to see revenues from those in the coming quarters.  The CEO gave a lot more color around the sales pipeline and how many leads they are generating and also with respect to the team that they have put together.  He really tells a good story, though that can be taken both ways I guess.  He is bringing people aboard that the market likes, signing agreements and getting their foot in the door where needed so I am inclined to believe this is just a waiting game to see how it translates into revenues in coming quarters.

Medicure has lots of catalysts, have to wait for them to materialize

As for Medicure, results again were probably a bit weak, I would have liked to see revenue at $8 million but $7.7 million is still pretty strong.  The bottom line was hurt by a large stock option expense, and they price their options as awarded so it all hits in a single quarter, you don’t get the spreading out of the option effect that most companies see.

Overall the idea is still there, they are continuing to gain market share with Aggrastat, hospital bags purchased increased 16% sequentially, the company said that June was their highest sales quarter since December and in a response to one of the questions on the Q&A they implied that the disconnect between sales and scripts should resolve itself into high sales, likely in the third quarter.

They are on-track to hear back from the FDA with respect to the bolus vial in the second half of the year, and the Complete Response they got from the FDA back in June for the STEMI indication sounds rectifiable.  They said there were 7 concerns that FDA had identified, 6 have been addressed and agreed to by the FDA and the seventh they have sent in their modification and are awaiting the response.

They also provided some color on Apicore.   It sounds like they expect to plan to purchase the other 95% of the company, said that Apicore  continues to grow over and above the $25 million of revenue they generated last year, and they have a new cardiovascular generic that they are developing along with Apicore that they expect to submit.  They were asked again about the price for their purchase option on Apicore and they again said they wouldn’t disclose, which is unfortunate.  They commented that they have built out their sales and administrative staff in response to the higher Aggrastat demand and it now has the ability to support multiple products.  In particular they can add this new generic with no additional staff increase.  They are also on the hunt for acquisitions of other drugs that are complimentary and low risk.

Vicor was Disappointing

I was disappointed in the second quarter results from Vicor given the expectation they had set the last quarter.  Much of Vicor’s backlog depends on a server standard called VR13.  The new server standard is in turn dependent on a new Skylake chipset being delivered by Intel and the chipset has been delayed (again), this time until the second half of 2017.

The consequence is that rather than orders beginning to ramp beginning in the second half, they likely won’t start receiving order for another 6 months.

I reduced my position on the news.  The company still is a technology leader and they still have the best power conversion solution for the next generation of datacenters, but six months is a long time and I’m betting I can build back the position at lower prices.

As I do continue to hold Vicor, I’ll be sure to follow Intel more closely to see where they are at with the chipset. In the mean time the best Vicor can hope for is to tread water.

New Position: Bovie Medical

I came across Bovie Medical doing a scan of 52-week highs on barchart.com.  This is a scan I like to do as much as possible during earnings season; you can catch stocks that are starting their next leg up because of recently released results.

Unfortunately I was on vacation at the time and so I caught Bovie a little later than I might have otherwise.  I bought the stock at $2.60, which was a couple of days after they had announced earnings. That was up from $2.05, which is what it had opened at the day of their earnings announcement.

Bovie Medical operates in 3 segments:

The “core business” is made up of electrosurgical medical devices (desiccators, generators, electrodes, electrosurgical pencils and lights) and cauteries.  This segment makes up largest percentage of revenues and has flat to low single digit growth historically.   Bovie has said they want to grow the business at mid-single digits which they were able to accomplish in the first half of this year.

The OEM business segment manufactures electro-surgical generators for other medical device companies.  It generated $1.6 million of revenue in the second quarter, up from $941,00 in Q1 and $648,000 in Q2 2015.

The growth from the OEM segment this year was somewhat unexpected.  It was partially due to contract restructuring that staggered contracts – they said that contracts are typically front-end development, back end production so they staggered the contracts to even out the revenue.  The company did say after the second quarter that the expected the growth rate to slow in the second half of the year but still show growth.  From the Q2 conference call comments:

…second quarter performance benefited from purchase orders signed last year and several new contracts were signed in the second quarter that should contribute to revenue growth over the next several quarters.

So the OEM business is posting some interesting numbers but the real reason I bought the stock is a new product called J-Plasma that Bovie recently developed.   J-Plasma is a tool that improves the outcomes of surgeries through an ionized helium stream of plasma. The result is better precision and coagulation without significant heating of the tissue.

The J-Plasma system consists of a helium plasma generator and tool disposable.  Here’s a screen cap of the disposable tool just to get an idea of what it looks like.

j-plasma

The generator (called the ICON GS plasma system) ionizes helium and produces a thin beam of the ionized gas.  You use the beam for cutting, coagulating or ablating the soft tissue.  The disposable is the hand piece for delivering the ionized gas stream.  It sounds like you replace the disposable with nearly every surgery.  There are different disposable hand pieces offered depending on the surgery being performed.  The procedure can be used on delicate tissues like fallopian tubes, ureters, the esophagus, ovaries, bowels and lymph nodes.

The initial generator purchase is in the $20,000 range, and the hand tools average $375.  Bovie said on its second quarter call that they are shifting to a pay per use option with a leasing program to bypass the upfront capital expense of the generator.

The success of J-Plasma didn’t happen immediately.  The company has had the product on the market since January 2015.  For the first year growth was in fits and starts.  In particular, the capital required from the up-front generator was a stumbling block.  The company said the following about the slow progress as recently as the fourth quarter conference call:

The operating metrics and leading indicators for J-Plasma product adoption were strong in the fourth quarter, but sales were below our expectations. We continue to face an exceedingly slow pace of J-Plasma generator sales. While we know that the long sales cycle for capital equipment is an industry wide issue, we also know that our VAC approval track record has been outstanding at over 92%, which makes this situation even more frustrating.

The company is targeting two verticals.   They are currently selling J-Plasma into gynecology (estimated total addressable market, or TAM, of $2 billion) and are moving into the plastic surgery business (estimated TAM of $440 million).

j-plasma-TAMThere are a number of other markets they can expand into including cardiology, urology, oncology and ENT.

There is also the opportunity for the J-Plasma system to be used in robotic surgeries.  Bovie has an expert in robotic surgeries on their medical advisory board that has begun to use J-Plasma in trials.  Results are expected in the first half of next year,  Bovie is also developing an extension to the product, due to be out in 2017, that will integrate into existing robotic surgical systems.  They said on the second quarter call that they are exploring relationships with “existing and emerging surgical robotic systems”.

Sales of J-Plasma increased substantially in the second quarter.  J-Plasma sales were $766,000.  This was up from sales of J-Plasma of $356,000 in the first quarter, which was up from $284,000 in the first quarter of 2015.

The company made a couple of moves in the second quarter that should increase exposure of the product further.  On the second quarter call they announced sales partnerships with two large distributors: Hologix (developer, manufacturer and supplier of premium diagnostic and surgical products) which will add them to their GYN and GYN Surgical line of products ($300mm line), and Arteriocyte, which will start selling J-Plasma to their network of plastic surgeons.

Given that Bovie’s sales force currently consists of a mere 16 employees and 30 independent sales reps, this should increase the reach significantly.  The company said that the two agreements are going to expand their salesforce “by multiples”.

One thing I like about Bovie is that they have a small revenue base to grow from.  In the second quarter revenue was $9.2 million.  This is up from revenue of $7.2 million in the first quarter.

Even though J-Plasma revenue remains in its infancy, incremental growth is still quite accretive to the top line because of the simple math that comes along with the company not being very big.

So we will see how things go in the upcoming quarters.  The one negative of note is when I model the growth out to next year, the company is still only borderline profitable after assuming a similar sales pace to the last couple of quarters.  So we may be a ways away from a real earnings inflection.  Nevertheless, I’m not sure that will matter much if J-Plasma sales can continue at the pace they are at.  If they do, profitability is an eventual inevitability and that is what the market will focus on.

New Position: Hudson Technologies

In an unfortunate turn of events I was listening to the Hudson Technologies presentation at the ROTH conference (the presentation is no longer available but I could send a copy I made if someone wants it) on my bike ride home a few weeks ago.   I was thinking wow, this sounds like a really interesting idea.  So I get home, take a look at the chart and boom!  The stock had jumped from like $3.50 to $5 that very day.

Sigh.

Nevertheless I continued to dig and found that in some ways the stock is actually a better idea now than it was pre-spike.

Hudson is the biggest refrigerant reclaimer in the United States.  The stock jumped on July 18th (the day of my bike ride) because of the announcement of a contract with the department of Defence:

[Hudson] has been awarded, as prime contractor, a five-year contract including a five-year renewal option, by the United States Defense Logistics Agency (“DLA”) with an estimated maximum value over the term of the agreement of $400 million in sales to the Department of Defense.  The fixed price contract is for the management and supply of refrigerants, compressed gases, cylinders and related items to US Military Commands and Installations, Federal civilian agencies and Foreign Militaries.  Primary users include the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.

So this is a big deal for a little company.  But it wasn’t the primary reason I was looking at the stock.  The story that intrigued me centered around their reclamation of R-22 refrigerant volumes.

R-22 refrigerant, also known as HCFC, is an ozone depleting substance, much like the CFC refrigerant that we all remember from the 1990s.  In fact, R-22 took the place of CFC’s in many applications.  But because R-22 also has an negative environmental impact it was decided by a number of governments t phase the refrigerant out.  In the United States, between now and 2019, production of virgin R-22 will go to zero, as ruled on by the Environmental Protection Agency.

This article did a good job outlining the phase-out cycle by the EPA:

In October 2014, the EPA announced its final phasedown schedule regarding the production and importation of HCFC-22. The order called for an immediate drop from 51 million pounds allowed in 2014 to 22 million pounds in 2015, 18 million pounds in 2016, 13 million pounds in 2017, 9 million pounds in 2018, and 4 million pounds in 2019. No new or imported R-22 will be allowed in the U.S. on or after Jan. 1, 2020.

With R-22 production being phased out, the remaining source of R-22 will be from reclaimed refrigerant.  This is where Hudson comes in as the largest reclaimer in the U.S.  Hudson should benefit from the production restrictions as they gain market share as well as benefit from price.

Its price where things get really interesting.  Over the time period where CFC’s were phased out the price spiked from $1 per lbs to $30 per lbs.

Already we are seeing the price rise.  R-22 ended last year at $10/lbs (up from$7.50), it rose to $12/lbs in the second quarter and prices are currently at $15/lbs.  The company said on their second quarter call saying they are “showing signs of further price improvement.”

Hudson benefits directly from the price rise.  The company has said that they expect that for every $1/lbs rise in the price, 50c should fall as margin.

The opportunity won’t continue forever, but it appears to me that the runway will be measured in years.  While new air conditioning units do not use R-22, the economics of repairs for existing units work in favor of R-22.  At the Roth conference the company said the following:

…lets say you want to repair unit outside of your house, has 10lbs of refrigerant, repairs are $2,500, even if refrigerant is $100/lb its $1,000… [in comparison] new unit is going to cost you $8,000

Hudson has a market capitalization of around $165 million and there is about $30 million of debt.  The company announced 15c EPS in the second quarter.  Keep in mind that this number includes no impact from the department of Defense contract and that R-22 prices have risen another $3 in the third quarter.

I honestly thought the stock was going to take off after the second quarter.  While it flew in after hours (and sucked me in for a few more shares) it gave up those gains the next day and actually traded down 10% in the in suing days.

It turns out that company executives sold a bunch of stock over that time.  The company released a press release on the 10th saying that various executives had sold 1.1 million shares.  That’s a lot of shares for a little company to absorb.

You could of course look at this negatively, but keep in mind that these say executives still hold 20%+ of the company, and so they sold down their positions by about 10%.  They’ve waited a long time for some sort of pay day, its hard for me to put too much stock in them cashing in a bit once it comes.

I really like this idea.

It seems to me that R-22 prices have no where to go but up, that upwards trend has already affirmed itself, and the stock really isn’t reflecting this.  Nor is it reflecting the full impact of the DoD contract, which should be worth around $40 million in annual revenue at similar to higher margins than the existing business right now.  While the stock hasn’t really moved up from my original purchase price so I haven’t been adding much, the size on the high side of what I usually allocate to a new position.

New Position: Sientra

I honestly can’t remember how I came across Sientra.  It was probably some sort of screen, but I have no recollection of what I was screening with.   I’m not getting enough sleep.

At any rate, I came upon the stock the day before it released earnings, which forced me to do some quick work and decide whether I knew enough to take a position or not.

I took a position on that day only an hour before the close.  I tweeted my thought in this tweet (as an aside I’ve decided to try to return to Twitter to comment on my portfolio adds.  I feel like I am missing out on a level of feedback that was often useful).

I always wince when I make a decision like this; I’ve been bitten by acting too fast before.  Yet what drove me to act quickly was because Sientra seemed like a time sensitive situation.

Here’s the scoop with Sientra.  The company sells a breast implant.  Their product was approved by the FDA in March 2012.  By most accounts it is a better product than those that already on the market from Allergan and Johnson & Johnson.  The company was taking market share and sales were increasing.  In the first six months of 2015 sales were $26 million, up from $21 million in the comparable period the year before.  In the third quarter sales were $13 million, up from $10 million in 2014.  Unfortunately the results were overshadowed by manufacturing problems that led to the company taking a $3 million allowance for product returns and suspending further production of the impants.

A few weeks before they announced their 3rd quarterr results the company announced that on October 2nd they had “learned that Brazilian regulatory agencies announced that, as they continue to review the technical compliance related to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) of Silimed’s manufacturing facility.”

On October 9th Sientra released a letter that they had sent plastic surgeons regarding the issues with the facility.  Sientra relied on a single source manufacturer.  The compliance issue caused the company to put a voluntary hold on sales.  The stock dropped from over $20 to $10.

Sientra did its best to come clean.  They worked with the FDA and hired a third party firm to verify the safety of the product.  The company was silent for two months and the stock continued to fall, eventually settling at $3 in December.

On January 8th, in a published letter to doctors, the company announced that they had “submitted all of the third testing data of its products to the FDA. He says that, in the company’s opinion, the results show that all are safe and present no significant risk to patients. If the FDA agrees, then their implants will be back on the market.”

The company said that while their investigation found that there were microscopic levels of particulate matter on the products, that data also revealed that even with well controlled manufacturing processes the presence of microscopic particles is unavoidable, and the level of particles from the shedding of a typical laboratory pad would have more particles than their products.

They started selling their implants again in March.  The second quarter was their first full quarter of results. Along with the results the company provided an update on their search for a new manufacturing partner.  As I had hoped, they announced a new partner.

Sientra has entered into a services agreement with Vesta, a Lubrizol LifeSciences company and a leading medical device contract manufacturer of silicone products and other medical devices…Under terms of the agreement, Vesta is establishing manufacturing capacity for Sientra and is working with the Company to finalize a long-term supply arrangement for its PMA-approved breast implants. Sientra anticipates that all project milestones will be achieved for the Company to submit a PMA Supplement to the FDA during the first quarter of 2017.

Sales in the second quarter were $6.2 million, which is only about half of the $14.2 million in sales they had the previous year, but still a very successful initial level considering their limited launch.  In fact the company has to be very careful about how much product they sell before they get manufacturing back up and running.  They do not want to risk another supply disruption.

The response to their return to the market has been positive.  The reason I was so interested in getting into the stock sooner rather than later is because management gave a very positive review of how quickly customers were coming back.  On the first quarter call by CEO Jeffrey Nugent:

We were removed from the market voluntarily and our primary competitors naturally came in and took over those customers that we were no longer able to serve. So what encourages us, and me particularly, is the relative speed and ease of converting those previous customers to come back from those products that they used as a replacement.

So, I could give you a number of other statistics. We have a very high level of analytics inside the Company. We know exactly who is ordering what. We’re following that on a very detailed basis. But as far as pushback, we’re not seeing much. There are virtually no concerns about the safety issues that were raised and we’ve been able to convince those customers that we have the confidence and are giving them the assurance that we are not going to allow them to go back on backorder.

So customers want the product and the market for growth is there.  The breast implant market is large compared to the size of Sientra.  I had to do some searching, and most of the numbers are behind expensively priced reports, but I was able to gather that the US implant market is at least $1 billion.  Sientra had a revenue run rate of around $50 million before it ran into troubles.  It seems that there is plenty of market share left to capture.

The one negative consideration is that this story isn’t going to play itself out in the next couple of months.  The company remains supply constrained and are relying on inventory for sales.  While the details about the manufacturing partner are great, its going to be a while before they are producing new product.  The company said the fourth quarter of 2017, which I believe is probably conservative, but regardless new product is still some time off.

Nevertheless, with a positive response from customers and the path to new product clearing, I suspect we will see the stock move higher as we inch towards that date.  My hope is that we eventually get the stock back to the $20 level, where it was before the roof caved in.

What I sold

I reduced my positions in Air Canada, Granite Oil and Intermap.  Air Canada and Granite continue to be slow to develop.  I did like what I read from Granite’s second quarter earnings release on Friday, and I may add to the position again in the coming days.

Air Canada just continues to lag regardless of what results they post.  I’m keeping what amounts to a start position here, but after seeing the stock struggle for the better part of two years even as the business continues to improve, I just don’t know what it will take for a re-valuation to occur.

Intermap just keeps dragging along with no financing in place.   I sold a little Intermap in the high 30’s but mostly decided to reduce after lackluster news along with the quarterly results released Friday.

In all three cases there is also the consideration that I have come across a number of new ideas as I discussed above and prefer to make room for them.

I also sold Iconix in mid-July but bought back my position before earnings.  However, as I am want to do, I neglected to add back the position in my tracking portfolio and didn’t realize that I had not done so until I reviewed the positions this weekend.  So I will add it back Monday morning.

Portfolio Composition

Click here for the last four weeks of trades.

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Week 258: In Search of the Next Big Thing

Portfolio Performance

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week-258-Performance

Top 10 Holdings

 week-258-holding-concentration

See the end of the post for my full portfolio breakdown and the last four weeks of trades

Thoughts and Review

I’m wrapping up the fifth year of the blog and portfolio I track here.  Unfortunately it was my worst year since inception.  With about a week to go I’ve eked out a miserly 3% gain.

In my last few posts I touched on what I think I’ve been doing wrong.  My observation is that I am spending too much time looking for value and not enough time looking for growth and finding major trends underway.

To put that in context, let’s look back at the last number of years for a minute.

I did well in 2009 and 2010 as I bought stocks that benefited from the infrastructure build-out in China, in particular a number commodity producers, mostly copper/nickel (FNX, Hudbay, Quadra) and met coal (Western Canadian Coal and Grande Cache Coal).

In 2011 I extended that thesis into pulp stocks, with wins from Mercer International and Tembec.  In 2011 I also made a few bets on gold stocks that paid off.

In 2012 I stuck with gold and began to see opportunities in small community banks that were recovering but where the market had yet to acknowledge this.  I also saw a slowly recovering housing market, and made successful bets on mortgage servicing stocks like Nationstar, which was a recent IPO, originators like Impac Mortgage, and hated mortgage insurers like MGIC and Radian.

In 2013 I continued the theme of a recovering housing market, with my mortgage insurer bets continuing to pay off, added more underappreciated community banks, and bet on a number of oil and gas opportunities that were taking advantage of the new fracking revolution.  I also correctly discerned that the market would take a more favorable attitude to debt, and so I made some of my biggest gains with stocks with debt, particularly YRC Worldwide, which rose from $6 to $36.

In 2014 my biggest gains were thanks to the ethanol stocks, in particular to Pacific Ethanol, which rose from $4 to $24.  I also did quite well playing the cyclical turn in airline stocks, particularly Air Canada and Aercap.

And how about 2015?  What led to my less than remarkable results?

For one I think that I spent too much time following tanker stocks.  While these stocks were cheap, they couldn’t and can’t shake their cyclical stigma.  Looking at the ships being delivered later this year and into 2017, maybe that is for good reason.

I focused too much on companies that were only marginally undervalued or where there was no real catalyst at hand to improve valuation.  In particular, I wasted far too much time on REITs, both simple single asset REITs like Independence Realty and Sotherly Hotels, and more complicated multi-asset REITs like Ellington Financial, Northstar Realty and even New Residential.  I remember Brent Barber commenting to me at one point to be careful with REITs in the environment we were  entering into, and I should have heeded that call.

I also spent too much time trying to justify the airlines.  As a whole the group is captive to their own history of pitiful returns.  One day multiple expansion may come, but holding too many of these stocks in anticipation of that day is not a good use of capital.

And finally, and more generally, I didn’t have a big theme or trend that worked for me.  There was no China infrastructure, pulp stocks, mortgage servicing, community bank or ethanol idea that I could ride.

For the upcoming portfolio year (beginning July 1st) I am going to focus on finding trends and growth.  The one I have latched onto so far is the move of telecom service providers to software defined networks and network function virtualization, and more generally, the continued move by businesses to locate resources to the cloud.

So far I have made the bet with Radcom, Radisys Vicor, Oclaro and Apigee.  Each of these is bearing or at least starting to bear fruit.  Unfortunately I also came extremely close to taking a position in Gigamon, a company I really like, but instead waited for it to slips into the mid $20’s. It never did and now its $37+.

While I made a couple of endeavors into bio-tech stocks last year and for the most part got taken to the cleaners on those, I’m not giving up on this sector yet.  I have been prepared to lose a few dollars under the agency of education and I am slowing learning more. I have a few more words about TG Therapeutics below.

Overall I really like the stocks that I own right now.  While the risk of what I own remains high as always, I also haven’t felt like I have had so many potential multi-baggers in some time.

I’ve been talking about some of the above mentioned names in the past few posts.  Below I am going to highlight a few others: a new position in RMG Networks, a position revisited in TG Therapeutics and some more information about Radisys.   Lastly I’ll review Intermap, which is more of a crap-shoot than the other names I own, but if the cards align it most certainly is a multibagger.

As for stocks I haven’t talked about in a while but will have to review in a later post, Swift Energy is treading water in the grey market and the warrants I received post bankruptcy don’t even trade, but I remain optimistic that when the stock gets to a big board it will go significantly higher.   While I remain wary of the Iconix debt load a few astute moves by management and the stock will trade at a more reasonable free cash flow level.  And Accretive Health, a very small position that trades on the pink sheets, is struggling through its transition but will soon begin to on-board patients via its long term agreement to manage services for Ascension, the largest non-profit health system in the United States.

It was a tough year but I feel good about the future.  Hopefully its a year that I have learned a little from, and that will set me up for a better one to come.

RMG Networks

RMG Networks provides what is called “digital signage” solutions.  They provide the hardware, content, content management system, and maintenance of the product.  The easiest way to understand “digital signage” is to see a couple of examples:

whatisdigitalsignageThis is a small company with 37 million shares outstanding and about a $37 million market capitalization at the current share price.  Yet even though the company is tiny, they do business with 70% of the Fortune 500 companies.

I came across the idea from a hedge fund letter I read by Dane Capital.  At first I wasn’t very excited about the idea; it seemed like a turnaround story with a struggling business, something I have been trying to stay away from.  It was really this quote from Robert Michelson, CEO, that led me to persist in my investigation:

I joined the company and was incentivized by two things. One, was on the company’s position in a really interesting growth industry, and two, my ability to make a lot of money and not salary bonus, but through equity. And you know, for me — I guess everyone wants to make a lot of money but I want to be able to make millions and millions of dollars. And you know I certainly go back and do the math and say, “you know, to get where I want to get to and it’s not just me — obviously, I’m doing this for the stockholders — this company needs to be significantly larger.” And I didn’t come to a company that was grow at like you 5% or 10% per year. You know, if you take a look at public companies, they get higher multiples when their growth is 20% plus.

The other thing that made it interesting to me is its size.  I already mentioned that RMG Networks has a miniscule market capitalization.  The company generated about $40 million of revenue in the trailing twelve months.  That means that relatively small amounts of new business are going to have an out sized impact on growth.  I will outline the growth strategy below.

The turnaround story at RMG began in 2014 when Michelson was brought in.  He proceeded to cut what was a fledgling international expansion, reduce the sales staff and bring back R&D spending to a more sustainable level.  We’re just on the cusp of seeing the fruits of that turnaround.

While the graphic I posted above shows five distinct end verticals the company has only made significant penetration into the contact center market.

This, in part, is where the opportunity lies.  Michelson is trying to address new markets.  His focus is the supply chain vertical and internal communications.

RMG’s supply chain solution provides real time data to distribution centers and warehouses.   Think about big screens in warehouses providing information about shipments, and performance metrics of teams.  The company currently sees a $10 million pipeline and has been seeing progress with leads with 40 prospects.   In the last few months they moved ahead with pilot programs with five of those leads.  RMG is targeting $5 billion companies with 80+ distribution centers and they expect to generate $1 million of revenue from each pilot if closed.

As for internal communications, RMG has a solution that delivers the existing content and management system but directly to employee desktop computers, mobile devices or to small screens around the office.

Internal communications is a $2 billion market.  The company has had advanced discussions with large customers to roll out their solution across their enterprise.

Maintenance revenue has been a headwind over the past two years, falling from over $4 million per quarter in 2014 to $3.4 million in the last quarter, but should stabilize going forward.  There have been two factors reducing maintenance revenue.  First has been the election to end-of-life older equipment that has componentry no longer supported by manufacturers.   Second, the new products being introduced can have a list price 40-50% less than their predecessors that were purchased 8 years ago and because the company charges maintenance as a percentage of sales, this has led to a reduction in maintenance revenue.  Both factors should begin to abate going forward.

Since Michelson started with the company a focus on sales productivity has led to an improvement in lead generation and new pilots.  Sales productivity was up 50% year over year in the first quarter as measured by sales orders per sales representative.  Michelson describes management as having “a relentless pursuit on costs” which is validated by the decline in general and administrative costs from the $5 million level in early 2014 when Michelsen took over to around the $3 million level and a decline in overall operating costs from $11 million per quarter to $5.6 million per quarter.

With the focus on the new verticals and improve productivity of the sale force new opportunities in pipeline are up over 40%.  And here is where we start to see an inkling that the strategic shift is bearing fruit.  In the sales pipeline, Michelsen said that the number of deals $100,000 or greater has increased by 50% in the last year while the number of $1 million deals have tripled.

My hope is that these early signs of sales improvements lead to an uptick in revenues in short order.

The stock is reasonably priced given the potential upside and it will only take a few good sized contracts to move the needle substantially.  I can see this one becoming a bigger position over time if they continue to execute along the current path.

Wading Cautiously back into a Biotech – TG Therapeutics

Here are a couple of thoughts on Biotechs that have begun to crystallize for me. I just finished reading a book called “Cracking the Code” and have started reading another called “The Billion Dollar Molecule”.  Please let me know if you have any recommendations for other good books or articles to help me with the sector.

While I am still a newbie in the bio-tech world, I am starting to understand a few things about the business.   I would distill the most important of my thoughts into the following three points:

  1. Approval/non-approval of any drug and the subsequent market for it is under SIGNIFICANT room for interpretation. Apart from a few obvious blockbusters that get snapped up by the large pharmas well in advance, there is a lot of uncertainty about what will work and what won’t and if it does work what kind of sales it will generate
  2. There is a big difference between the value of a company in Phase II or II trial that will eventually have to ramp up its own sales and marketing of the drug versus what that drug would be worth rolled into a larger entity that already has the salesforce, marketing engine and infrastructure in place.
  3. Biotechs in Phase 1-3 are event driven, open to interpretation, and their share price is as dependent on the capital markets as it is on the state of their particular research.  In this respect they have a lot of similarities to gold exploration companies.

With those points said, and being fully aware of what remains to be limited knowledge in this sector, as I wrote about last month I did purchase, or re-purchase, a biotech position this month.  I have been buying shares in TG Therapeutics.

The story at TG Therapeutics is the same one I wrote about a few months ago.  But that thesis has moved forward in some ways.

TG Therapeutics has two drugs that are in late stage trials for B-cell cancers.  The first, TG-1101, is what is called a CD20 monoclonal antibody.  To dissect what that means, an antibody is a protein designed to attack a pathogen, monoclonal means it is an antibody that latches on to one particular cell type, and in the case of TG-1101, the cell that is latched onto is a B cell, the latching achieved by way of a protein called CD20, which is expressed on the surface of B-cells. Once TG-1101 grabs onto the CD20 receptor it works eventually to destroy the cell.

The second drug that is in the pipeline is called TG1202, which is a PI3K-delta inhibitor.  An inhibitor blocks a particular pathway (a pathway is a series of action by which a cell changes or creates something), in this case the pathway is called the 3-kinase pathway.  The 3-kinase pathway is one of the most activated pathways in human cancers.  So the theory is that if it can be blocked, cancer development will be stunted.

TG-1101 is in Phase 3 trial in combination with an already approved drug called Ibrutinib, which goes by the trade name Imbruvica, and is owned by Abbvie.  Ibrutinib inhibits another receptor on the B-cell called Bruton’s tyrosine kinase.  Abbvie bought Imbruvica for $21 billion in 2014.   Ibruvica has been approved and has shown strong sales; it generated $1.3 billion in sales in 2015 and estimates are that sales could peak at as much as $12 billion.   TG-1101 is expected to improve both the efficacy and safety profile of Ibrutinib when used in combination and so far the results are bearing that out.

A second Phase 3 trial has TG-1101 and TGR-1202 working together.  TGR-1202 is also in a stand-alone trial.  In the stand-alone trial efficacy rates of TGR-1202 are tracking at slightly better than Ibrutinib monotherapy.  In combination, efficacy is even better.

One of the concerns that I believe has hit the stock is because of results that have recently been released for two other PI3Kdelta drugs in development.  Duvelisib (owned by Infinity Pharmaceuticals) and Zydelig (owned by Gilead), have run into issues with efficacy. The market could be looking at this that the read through to TGTX drug is that it is a PI3K inhibitor so in same class as these drugs and so maybe concerns spill over

Everything I have read suggests that Duvelisib and Zydelig had very similar structures whereas TGR-1202 does not.  More importantly, so far TGR-1202 is showing a good toxicity profile (meaning manageable side effects).  So I think we could see the current read through go in opposite direction as the data is digested.

This Barrons article quotes Wedbush as saying that the Zydelig problems have a negative read through for Duvelisib:

Zydelig safety issues raise red flags for duvelisib program. Given their structural similarities and similar mechanism of action, we believe the new Zydelig-related safety concerns provide a negative read-through for Infinity Pharmaceuticals’ ( INFI ) duvelisib program. Zydelig and duvelisib are both inhibitors of PI3K, a family of enzymes that regulate a variety of cell signaling processes, with Zydelig inhibiting just the delta isoform while duvelisib inhibits both the delta and gamma isoforms. A comparison across clinical studies suggests that duvelisib has a poorer safety profile compared to idelalisib, which we attribute to the potentially immune-weakening effect of PI3K-gamma inhibition.

Zydelig, before the recent issues, was approved and brought in $130 million in sales last year.  I saw estimates that Zydelig could reach peak sales of $1.2 billion by 2020.  If TGR-1202 can continue to show a better safety profile, presumably it should be able to take

The differentiation of TGR-1202 the other PI3Kdelta drugs was addressed by TG Therapeutics in a recent press release:

The integrated analysis, which includes 165 patients treated with TGR-1202 alone or in combination with TG-1101, demonstrates that the toxicities observed with other PI3K delta inhibitors such as liver toxicity, colitis, pneumonitis and infection are rare with TGR-1202 with discontinuations due to TGR-1202 related AEs occurring in less than 8% of patients.  We see this as particularly compelling given the recent setbacks for idelalisib with the closure of a series of randomized studies due to safety concerns.  The data presented today provides strong evidence to support the hypothesis that the adverse events seen with idelalisib are not necessarily a class effect.”

TG Therapeutics has about 55 million shares outstanding.  At the current price the market capitalization is about $380 million.  They have $85 million of cash on the balance sheet which should be good for a couple years of cash burn.

Success in the TG-1101 trial will give them a complimentary drug to the widely used Ibrutinib that can be prescribed alongside it.  Success in the combination trial will give the company a “platform” of two drugs from which others can be layered in order to attack the cancer from multiple angles and deliver the knock-out punch.  There are a couple of drugs addressing other mechanisms of attack of B-cells in earlier stages in the pipeline.  And there are investigations ongoing into whether TG-1101 can be used in the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis.

Radisys – Comments on the B Riley Conference

For some reason I get a lot of emails about Radcom and absolutely none about Radisys. I don’t know why? I would be hard pressed to call Radcom the better investment of the two. Maybe there is more upside to Radcom, particularly if they can evolve their product into something that could be used in a larger market (ie. Data center or security) but in terms of product and sales performance, not to mention stock performance, Radisys is the clear winner so far.

Radisys presented a very bullish call at the B Riley conference.  It isn’t coincidence that the stock moved up from $4.20 to $5 in the subsequent days.

To recap the story, Radisys is growing off of three products. FlowEngine, MediaEngine and DCEngine.

FlowEngine is a software defined network (SDN) friendly load balancer; basically a packet forwarding box. It already has a Tier 1 customer (Verizon) that uses it to triage packets in their network. FlowEngine had no revenues in 2014, had $5 million in 2015 and is expected to double revenue in 2016.

At the B Riley conference Radisys CEO Brian Bronson said it’s a $100 million business in the long term.  Towards the end of the Q&A Bronson pointed out a specific deal in India where they were competing against incumbent equipment manufacturers that were delivering similar functionality in a more traditional appliance for $750,000, while FlowEngine could provide the same for $250,000.

MediaEngine manages and manipulates media, is used in the conference space (I believe Mitel is a customer) as well as in VoLTE and transcoding. It’s the biggest revenue driver of the software and systems segment, had about $50 million in revenue last year, and while further growth is expected, it will not be the driver of growth going forward.

DCEngine is a rack solution for telecom datacenters.  As they upgrade service providers are migrating equipment to a data center environment, replacing the central office that they operate in today. The DCEngine rack is half as expensive as the competition. Bronson outlined that their advantage with DCEngine is that they are not the incumbent equipment provider, which stands to lose revenue and margins by replacing their fully populated custom solution with a rack populated with 3rd party equipment.

Because most of the rack is populated by third-party equipment, DCEngine is a low margin business, pulling in 15-20% gross margins though it does deliver 10% operating income. More importantly it will begin to pull through FlowEngine sales beginning in the second half of this year, as there will be as many as two FlowEngine appliances installed per rack, depending on the application.  Bronson suggested that at some point it could pull through MediaEngine sales as well but that is the first I have heard of that so I don’t know what sort of volumes we are talking here. Finally, selling the rack makes Radisys the natural player for profesional services (ie. installation, integration and maintenance) which on a gross margin basis are only about 20-30% but most of that drops to bottom line.

I gave my model for Radisys in the last update. What I have learned in the last month only strengthens my belief that I am likely going to be conservative on my revenue growth forecast.

Intermap Gambling

I had a friend go to the Intermap AGM, and some questions he subsequently asked about the company got me to review my research on the name.

I’ll review the details again but first the conclusion.  Same as what I concluded originally, this is a coin flip with a large potential upside if things pan out, and an absolute zero if they don’t.   I still feel the odds are favorable given the reward but only for a small “option” position type that I have reconciled to losing in its entirety.

Let’s review.  The story is that of an Spatial Data Integration contract, or SDI.  An SDI encompasses data acquisition, which in Intermap’s case entails crisscrossing a jet  over the country collecting IFSAR data, and data integration, which includes bringing the mapping data into Intermap’s Orion platform, integrating it with existing data (both geospatial, think LIDAR, and other layer information that can be tied to a GIS location), and building queries to automate searches and perform analytics on the data.

The SDI that Intermap has won is with the Congo.  Intermap is not dealing directly with the Congo. They are dealing with a prime contractor, of which the rumor is a company called AirMap.  The purpose of a prime contractor is to provide the local contact and regional expertise, and to arrange project financing.

The project financing is what everyone is holding their breath on.  You do project financing on a big contract like this SDI to help address the mismatch between project costs and funding timeline by the government.  It basically is put in place to insure that Intermap gets paid on time and has the cash flow to keep executing on the deal.

The project financing was supposed to be completed within 90 days of some date in February.  This would have put the deadline at the end of June at the latest.  On the first quarter conference call management implied that there could be an extension, but that the expectation was, by way of the prime contractor, that the financing would close by the end of the quarter.   Management said that financing discussions had moved away from financial details and were now focused on operational details, which presumably is to say things are progressing.

Intermap has 120 million shares fully diluted, so about a $20 million market capitalization.  They have $21 million of debt, mostly payable to a company called Vertex One.  The relationship with Vertex One is another wrinkle.  Here is Vertex One’s position in Intemap:

  • They owned 19.8mm shares in June 2015 (from here) and have subsequently reduced by 4.1mm (from this Sedar Filing)
  • 7 million warrants at 7.5c (from Gomes and from Vertex One filing)
  • They have a 17.5% overriding royalty on revenue
  • Hold $21 million of debt as already mentioned

The question is, given the distributed position, what is in Vertex One’s best interests?  I remain of the position that as long as the SDI is in play, Vertex One interests are best held by keeping their hand.  The equity upside is at least $1, the royalty will skim off the top, and they will collect on the debt through cash flow repayments.

But if the SDI is lost the relationship with Vertex likely means game over for Intermap in their current form.  Interest payments will overwhelm cash flow generated from data sales and InsitePro.

Its worth noting that InsitePro is a product sold to the insurance industry to help them identify insurance risks such as flood plains.  While InsitePro is an interesting little product, and management has noted that the addressable market is upwards of $500 million with a similar competitor product from CoreLogic currently running at $50 million annual sales, the company is really all in on the SDI and it is the success or failure of it that will determine Intermap’s fate.

So Intermap is a binary bet worth holding a small slice of if you don’t mind taking a significant risk.  I’m ok with it, I still think it makes more sense at this point that the deal closes then doesn’t.  But I won’t be shocked if I am wrong.

Extendicare’s Slide

In retrospect Extendicare was probably fully valued when it crossed above $9 into that $9.50 range. But I like the long-term trends in the business which always makes me reluctant to sell a stock like this. With the stock back down to below the $8 level it looks like I am in for another cycle. While I didn’t add any in the tracking portfolio, I did add to the stock in my RRSP.

I can’t be sure what has precipitated the sell off. It could be that the activist is reducing or exiting. The first quarter results were a little light, they are struggling with the Home Health business that they are integrating and margins are coming up a bit short.

I believe they are correct to expand into the home health space. Government is going to try to keep people in their homes as long as possible because its cheaper.  While the publicly funded side of the business is always going to be constrained by funding, it does give the company a base from which to build a private business, which they are starting to do.

I think of my wife’s parents, who take care of her mom’s parent in their home in Ontario. They get a nurse every day for an hour that is publicly funded but even with that help its becoming too much.  One option is to start paying a nurse to stay longer, or come a second time later in the day, out of pocket.  Its those kind of needs that Extendicare can serve.

What I learned about listening to Oil Bears

Its pretty interesting to look back at what has been said about the oil market on twitter over the past 6 months. From January to March there was a decidedly negative bent on oil market tweets. Many of these tweets were made by users with a large follower base, which presumed a degree of authority to their comments. I actually made a list of these tweets at the time, because I really wondered whether the market was as dramatically out of balance as was being suggested.

I’m not going to call out names, but it just reiterates that twitter has to be taken with a grain of salt.

I mostly sold out of my position in Clayton Williams Energy and Surge Energy.  I hold a few shares in one account but am out of these stocks in the practice portfolio.  I’ve replaced the position with another name that feels a bit safer with oil at these levels, an old favorite of mine called RMP Energy.  I continue to hold Granite Oil.

What I sold

I sold out of Health Insurance Innovations after the announcement of the proposed ruling by the Health and Human Services department to limit short term medical plans to three months and not allow renewals.   This is their whole business model, and if it goes I don’t know what happens to the company.  I also noticed that I have been seeing complaints about the company’s call centers aggressive sales tactics pop up, which is worrisome.

I also sold out of Oban Mining, which has been another gold stock winner for me, more than doubling since the beginning of the year.  I just don’t want to overstay my welcome here.

Also note that I did take a position in BSquare, which I will write up in the next post.

Portfolio Composition

Click here for the last four weeks of trades.

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