- Spruce Point has released a number of reports on iRobot (IRBT or “the Company”) highlighting impending competitive pressures and defensive distributor acquisitions designed to forestall revenue growth contraction and margin compression. We have evidence that the competitive forces which we foresaw are materializing, resulting in significant ASP declines, market share losses, and cash flow contraction. With the uplift benefit from distributor acquisitions set to lapse, and with punitive Chinese tariffs set to expand from 10% to 25% in 2019, we believe that iRobot’s is set up for significant revenue growth deceleration, margin contraction, and earnings headwinds next year. As a result, we see 70-80% downside risk.
- Technological Advantages Dwindling: As the first mover in the robot vacuum space, iRobot has until now enjoyed perceived technological dominance over other brands. That advantage has narrowed materially: more established consumer technology brands have entered the market, and consumers have taken notice that competitors meet or exceed Roomba’s technological capabilities.
- Amazon Enabling And Promoting Aggressive Competition: Amazon is becoming an increasingly important sales channel for iRobot: it was responsible for ~25% of iRobot sales in Q3, up from just ~10% in Q3 of the prior year. iRobot products generally do not receive preferential placement on Amazon search pages, due to both its high price tag and aggressive promotional activity among peers. Amazon also has less incentive to promote brands with high name recognition than do brick-and-mortar stores. Amazon enables a level of competition which undermines the importance of iRobot’s recognizable brand.
- Industry Competition Dragging On Sales Prices: Robot vacuums are classic deflationary pieces of technology: commoditized products which experience rapid industry catch-up with each incremental technological development, and which have little room for substantive differentiation (but which require consistent R&D spend nonetheless). iRobot has not been able to raise product prices materially for years, and is pushing sales by offering a wider range of products priced below its top-line vacuum. This strategy will drag on margins over time.
- Worrisome Cash Flow Developments: iRobot’s net spending on working capital has ballooned in the wake of its distributor acquisitions – a concerning development resulting in YTD operating cash flow contracting by 21% YoY. We believe the financial strain was telegraphed in July when iRobot unexpectedly doubled its line of credit from $75 to $150m for no obvious reason, given that it has $126m of cash on hand, and that it was on pace for $50m+ of operating cash flow. Rising DSOs may be a signal of channel-stuffing at its own distributors. Massive inventory growth and record DIOs may also be both a signal of slowing sales growth ahead and a result of management accumulating lower-cost inventory in anticipation of tariffs.
- Tariffs Potentially A Highly Significant Drag On Earnings: Management has been dodgy about the potential impact of tariffs when asked about it on calls. Investors now have a better sense of the impact of a 10% tariff following the Q3 call, but management continues to avoid discussing the potential impact of the impending 25% tariff – perhaps in hopes that the tariffs are cancelled before it would have to do so. We expect iRobot to take a massive 70% hit to FY 2019 EPS should the 25% tariff to be instituted on Jan 1 remain in place through the year (barring the passing-on of tariffs cost increases to customers, which we feel iRobot has limited ability to do). Sell-side analysts are either ignoring tariff risks or entirely off on the potential magnitude of the impact.
- Insider Selling Is Exploding Out Of Control: In our first report on iRobot, we noted that insiders were selling the stock aggressively: insider ownership fell from ~60% in 2005 to ~12% in 2013 – and then to 5% only a year later. Insiders have continued to be sellers through the last several years, and insider ownership is now at an all-time low of 3.5%. While iRobot appears desperate to dangle carrots to the press – in particular, partnerships with big name technology companies – its insiders have enacted a record amount of 10b5-1 stock sale programs. For example, in Feb 2017, only CEO Colin Angle had a 10b5-1 stock sale program in place, but by May 2018 a total of six directors and executives were unloading shares under similar stock sale programs.
- Share Price Above Even Lofty Sell-Side Targets: IRBT shares have soared from ~$60 in mid-2018 to close to $100 today, and reached as high as ~$115 ahead of CEO Angle’s much-anticipated presentation at the Disrupt SF conference – where, yet again, after years of hyping the Company’s potential in other home robotics categories, he failed to deliver anything new beyond the stagnant Roomba product. All sell-side analysts remain perennially bullish on the Company’s growth story, but the rapid rise in IRBT shares forced some analysts to issue downgrades on the basis of valuation alone. Long-term institutional shareholders continue to sell, while those buying classify IRBT under “consumer discretionary” and “homebuilding” and not technology!
- High Valuation, Slowing Growth, Changing Distribution Model And Tariff Threat All Pose Risks To IRBT Shares: We see up to ~50% downside in IRBT shares on valuation alone, even when taking consensus earnings estimates for granted. The prospect of slowing sales growth and margin compression would imply even more significant downside, and 25% tariffs would wipe out a large chunk of earnings for however long they remain in place. We can envision a scenario in which business deterioration and 25% tariffs wipe out all 2019 EPS. Given the fundamental threats to the business, current trading multiples, and the possibility that iRobot must bear 25% tariffs for an extended period of time, we value IRBT shares at $20 – $30/sh, 70%-80% below current levels.
- Spruce Point finds evidence to suggest that Mercury Systems (Nasdaq: MRCY) could be one of the companies affected by the alleged Super Micro Computer, Inc. (Supermicro) hack, and can demonstrate recent actions taken by management to obscure the relationship. We believe the Street is structurally misunderstanding the magnitude of the revenue delays and cyber compliance costs that Mercury – a company presently without a Chief Information Security Officer (“CISO”) – will face going forward. Based on our expert calls, we expect that cybersecurity-related costs could mount to 10% of revenues. Given that management felt it necessary to hide its relationship with Supermicro, we believe that Mercury needs to disclose to investors the materiality of its exposure to Supermicro components, the financial impact of any product changes/recalls/replacements, and its plans to ensure the “security” of its mission-critical products on a go-forward basis.
Exposure Emanating From “Technology Partner” Supermicro
- On October 4th, Bloomberg published an in-depth article highlighting how China infiltrated 30 U.S. companies by inserting a tiny chip into Supermicro motherboards. Navy systems were mentioned specifically as an affected target. Mercury Systems and two of its recent acquisitions – Themis Computers ($175 million / Feb 2018) and Germane Systems ($45 million / July 2018) – each sells servers and other related IT equipment containing Supermicro motherboards to the Navy and other military branches.
- Providing secure and resilient solutions to prime and government customers is the essence of Mercury’s business. Mercury mentions the words “secure” and “security” over 100 times in its annual report.
- Mercury, Themis, and Germane all listed Supermicro as a “technology partner” on their respective websites until last week, when nearly all references to the relationship were abruptly and surreptitiously removed between October 8-9 without explanation.
- The existence of Supermicro motherboards in Mercury’s rugged servers presents difficult-to-quantify tail risks, but could force product recalls and expensive supply chain adjustments, among other costly actions. As a precedent example, the Navy placed restrictions on IBM’s BladeCenter server line in 2015 over supply chain security concerns, less than a year after Chinese IT hardware manufacturer Lenovo acquired IBM’s server business. (USNI Article)
- A recent GAO report entitled “DOD Just Beginning to Grapple with Scale of Vulnerabilities” highlighted how testers playing the role of adversary were able to take control of systems relatively easily and operate largely undetected. Based on conversations with industry experts, we believe that the requirements for winning government business will be (and are being) rewritten with an emphasis on cyber resilience and a much higher cybersecurity standard. We suspect that new contracts awards are likely to be delayed as a result
- Based on our research, Mercury appears ill-prepared to address these new requirements given its relative shortage of cybersecurity personnel, and the fact that both its long-time CIO and long-time CISO recently departed in August 2018. We estimate that Mercury could have to spend up to 10% of revenue on cyber-related costs going forward, or otherwise make a costly acquisition to comply with these new customer expectations.
- Mercury has quietly hinted at some of these concerns through subtle changes to its 10-K risk factors and safe harbor provisions, and through recent job postings in supply chain procurement and quality control.
- Spruce Point has a Strong Buy opinion on Henry Schein (HSIC) and sees 30% to 50% upside potential
- We believe the upcoming spin-off of HSIC’s animal health distribution business will unlock substantial value for shareholders. Currently, investors are somewhat negative on HSIC’s dental business, and pricing and margin challenges are already widely known. HSIC currently has an 11% short interest that reflect this concern.
- However, we believe investors are overlooking HSIC’s fast growing animal health business, that stands to benefit once it spins and merges with the privately held Vets First Choice (VFC). HSIC brings strong relationships with vets worldwide, and VFC brings a high margin tech platform and pharmacy solution to help vets sell more to clients, while improving health outcomes for its client’s pets.
- We have done unique due diligence on VFC, and believe it is growing materially faster than the numbers that were presented to Wall Street analysts/investors in April 2018. We’ve built an algorithm that runs US zip codes through VFC’s vet finder and believe they are on pace for on-boarding 9,000 vets vs. the 5,100 last disclosed à significant upside. We have also conducted ~100 surveys to determine customer satisfaction and revenue uplift potential from this synergistic merger. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
- The market env’t for animal health stocks is very strong: Eli Lilly just spun and IPO’ed Elanco last week, which was very well received. We believe that HSIC/VFC will be the fastest sales and EBITDA growth story in the industry, which should position it for significant multiple expansion. We like this situation because spin-offs tend to outperform the market once the new management team can have a greater alignment and incentive structure (we do believe that legacy VHC owners have a lot of skin in the game). VFC is run by the Shaw family which created billions of dollars of value at Idexx. We expect a significantly expanded shareholder base that can own VFC/HSIC and more analysts to assume coverage to say “buy” once the spin is completed. Our base case is ~30% upside to approximately $106 per share with up to 50% or $126 per share in a bull case scenario.
- Poorly positioned regional supermarket in the hypercompetitive Northeast region that is a step behind in the megatrends pressuring the supermarket industry. Despite cutting prices, Weis is still not competitive across a basket of staple food products at price points 15% to 20% higher than peers
- Credit card data and consumer insights from Earnest Research on 42,000 Weis customers shows that over the past three quarters, unique shoppers, average transactions per shopper and total transactions have declined YoY. Weis has mitigated these negative trends with an increase in average ticket price per shopper. However, in 2Q18 it posted the lowest YoY growth in recent quarters (3.5%). Tangible evidence that ultra low cost grocers, Aldi and Lidl, continue to gain Weis customers
- Numerous violations by the Pennsylvania Bureau of Food Safety and the FDA for sanitary problems, including food contamination and pest control concerns
- Recent financial results and stock performance being driven by aggressive accounting changes to cash flow, and a few one-time issues that made comparisons look easy in early 2018. These will become material headwinds in the coming quarters
- Unreliable comparable store sales metrics as a result of vastly reduced disclosures, followed by three auditors since 2014. Recent Q2’18 metrics being qualified and bolstered by inclusion of estimated sales from July 4th. Underlying organic growth conservatively estimated to be down 2% and can no longer be masked by acquisitions from 2016
- Negative unit store growth in 2018, including three undisclosed store closures. $101m capital spending plan announced in April 2018 necessary to drive maintenance and refurbishment to forestall market share loss and remain competitive
- Poor governance and investor communications include no conference calls, deficient SEC disclosures in our opinion, no alignment of employees with shareholders, and beholden to the Weis family to act for the public shareholders’ best interest
- Inflated valuation making Weis the most expensive supermarket in the United States for no obvious reason. Declining organic growth, gross margins, and poor returns on capital make Weis an unattractive target. It currently trades beyond any reasonable valuation multiple an acquirer would pay for the stock
- Price target of $17.60 to $26.40, or 45% to 65% downside, on forecasted earnings of $1.47 per share, down 19% due to negative operating leverage, and a multiple range of 12x to 18x consistent with peer trading valuations and takeover multiples in the supermarket industry
- 2U, Inc. is a money-losing education technology provider that partners with universities to market and manage online graduate degree and short course programs. Its one size fits all model is being disrupted by fee-for-service players with lower take-rates. Our Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) documents offer compelling evidence that 2U’s long term guidance will disappoint investors.
- Significant Number of Programs Are Underperforming: The Street is neglecting to understand the range of outcomes for both existing and future graduate programs. We have assembled a proprietary historical revenue model that estimates revenues for each individual graduate program using a combination of FOIA requests, conversations with industry participants, company filings, transcripts, publicly available enrollment data, and tuition costs. This proprietary model reveals a wide range of outcomes between programs that are successful and those that we would classify as failures. Most importantly, we have found that eight of the 14 programs launched between 2013 and 2015 are underperforming 2U’s steady state program expectations. Further, based on our findings, we believe that four of the top seven programs have peaked and/or seen enrollment declines. Our FOIA request for new student enrollments for MBA@UNC reveals that the 2U enabled MBA@UNC is now in decline as the last four starts have all seen YoY declines. We believe the Street is dangerously extrapolating 2U’s guided steady state program performance to model 2U’s new and future programs.
- GetSmarter Acquisition Likely A Diversion For Slowing U.S. Growth: At Spruce Point, we’ve successfully shorted numerous companies where we spotted early underlying business challenges being deflected by acquisitions. In the case of 2U, we find that it made its first acquisition of GetSmarter in May 2017, allowing it also to diversify internationally. We believe this validates our view that domestic growth is slowing. GetSmarter also exposes 2U to short courses, which is a lower quality business, with shorter duration revenue visibility, and fewer barriers to entry.
- Recent Equity Raise of +$330m Raises Questions: Alongside the COO appointment, 2U did a secondary stock issuance and raised $330m at $90/share (a 5.8% discount to the closing price of $95.53). The language in its capital raise differs from its capital raise just eight months prior (September 2017). The use of proceeds has now been expanded to include acquisitions, despite it having recently acquired GetSmarter, and not proven its ability to make good on its deal promises. Previous to this recent capital raise, 2U had $182m of cash on its balance sheet and has been talking to investors about its ability to become cash flow positive. Spruce Point believes 2U’s most likely motivation for issuing stock was to grab the money while investors aren’t attuned to its growing program failures and rising competitive threats. Otherwise, it is likely 2U is signaling a deferral of its time line to reach positive free cash flow.
- A Terrible Risk/Reward Owning 2U With Analysts Seeing Just 6% Upside, We See 30% – 50% Downside Risk:Insiders have made out like bandits, selling $148m of stock, despite 2U burning $225m of negative free cash flow since 2011. Approximately 25% of sales have been the CEO, who just adopted a new 10b5-1 program in March 2018 ahead of its recent capital raise, and can start selling again next week post lock-up. Analysts have relentlessly said “Buy” but at the current time analysts have an average price target of $99/sh, which represents just 7% upside, a poor risk/reward. Analysts fail to appreciate the change in competitive dynamics, and extrapolate 2U’s current performance into the future without having done the exhaustive FOIA and program analysis we’ve undertaken. Once reality sets in that 2U’s best days are behind it, and it begins disappointing unrealistic Street expectations, we expect significant valuation compression risk given its shares trade at 9.5x and 180x 2019E sales and Adj EBITDA, respectively.
- Spruce Point and its China-based investigator has spent months doing primary forensic research into Momo, Inc. (Nasdaq: MOMO or “the Company”) and sees $23 to $32/sh, 30% to 50% downside risk. Momo’s investor base is compromised of two distinct cohorts, fundamental investors taking management’s word at face value and momentum/swing traders trying to play the stock’s trend. Both of these groups are oblivious to the serious risks underpinning a Momo investment.
- Momo’s current investor base is primarily comprised of U.S. retail investors and a select number of institutions, almost exclusively in small position sizes, looking to play the recently white hot China live streaming space through one of a handful of US listed companies
- If Momo were simply a North American based company selling a new technology (e.g., VR, AI), investors could conduct significant English based market research, evaluate the product, understand the regulatory environment and make an educated assessment as to whether this is a fad or the next big thing. However, given the newness of the product space and the evolving nature of the competitive landscape it would still remain a speculative investment
- Additionally, if Momo were a North American based company, investors could take confidence in the fact its activities are likely to be transparently disclosed, fairly presented, legal and that management is acting in the best interest of shareholders.
- Unfortunately, Momo isn’t a North American based company and this compounds the risk of an investment substantially. Momo is a China based media company, offering a Mandarin based product to Chinese consumers and conducting business under the oversight of the MOC and SARFT. In order to credibly understand trends in this foreign market, an investor must conduct the same level of company, industry and regulatory diligence in Mandarin that one would conduct in English. Anything short of this is simply a gamble
- When making a Chinese based VIE investment, the emphasis placed on performing forensic research into governance, ownership, the legality of operations and related party transactions takes on much greater importance than a comparable North American investment given different corporate governance practices in China. Spruce Point doesn’t believe that an appreciation for the risks of a Chinese VIE based investment can be achieved without thorough diligence of the VIE structure and its subsidiaries.
- HTA’s Chief Executive Officer Has A History of Failure And Non-Shareholder Friendly Outcomes: At Spruce Point, we like to follow executives who have destroyed shareholder value in the past as this pattern often repeats itself. HTA’s CEO and Chairman Scott Peters has been linked to multiple bankruptcies and liquidations (Grub & Ellis, NNN Realty Advisors, G REIT, T REIT, and Golf Trust of America). Furthermore, we highlight a corporate and personal web of inter-relationships that links both HTA and CEO Peters to multiple bad players in the REIT industry, including Tony Thompson who was barred by FINRA and Nick Schorsch, Former Chairman of American Realty Capital Partners (ARCP, now VEREIT (NYSE: VER)), whose firm manipulated non-GAAP results and had its CFO convicted of fraud.
- HTA’s Existence Began As A Non-Traded REIT Prior To A Direct Listing On The NYSE: Spruce Point has had many successes shorting companies that have taken back-door or non-traditional listing channels to come public, most notably the early China scams. Within real estate, the Non-traded REIT (NTR) industry is known to be a conflict-ridden business. NTRs are sold to retail investors through broker-dealers who earn egregious commissions (upwards of 10%). In general, for every $10 share purchase, about $1.50 is spent on up-front fees and acquisition expenses, leaving only $8.50 to be invested. After Scott Peters (and his executive team) scraped fees from raising $2.2bn under the NTR umbrella, management listed the Company on the NYSE in 2012 without raising capital via a traditional IPO. In doing so, we believe public investors may not have received the benefits from a rigorous underwriting and due diligence IPO process.
- In Our Opinion, HTA Is Likely Manipulating Its Quarterly Same-Property Cash Net Operating Income (SPNOI) Results: We have conducted a statistical analysis of quarterly SPNOI performance, and believe it is highly likely that this measure is being managed in a manner to show consistent results. In our analysis, we compared HTA’s quarterly SPNOI results with its Medical Office Building (MOB) peers. HTA demonstrates the least volatility (i.e. lowest standard deviation) by a significant margin. We point to potential accounting maneuvers and culprits of how the comparisons have remained so consistent throughout its public history, and share scary similarities of reported results with the Brixmor accounting scandal.
- We Can’t Reconcile HTA’s Same-Property NOI Margin Profile: Same-property revenues have grown on avg. by 1.9% and same-property expenses are down by 1.1% since 2013, yet, there is no commensurate SPNOI margin expansion. We provide an illustration of how we believe HTA’s margin profile should be expanding according to its reporting, and illustrate why the math doesn’t appear to work. HTA may be achieving its consistent SPNOI results though uneconomic means: e.g. entering into expensive long-term fixed-price contracts, and/or selling properties at unattractive prices.
- Serious Concerns With The CFO And Accounting Function: Despite CFO Robert A. Milligan claiming to have worked for Bank of America/ML from July 2007 – Jan 2012 as a VP in corporate banking advisory, there is no FINRA record to evidence his employment. Milligan’s public profile also says he is CFO/Treasurer/Secretary, yet he also signs HTA’s SEC filings as Principal Accounting Officer (he is an MBA, not a CPA). HTA has a named Chief Accounting Officer, David Gershenson, as part of its executive team. SEC rules state that the Chief Accounting Officer must sign the 10-K filing; why hasn’t he done so? HTA’s accounting function appears in disarray with a majority of the staff sitting in South Carolina, two thousand miles away from its executive office in Scottsdale, Arizona. Our analysis shows that a majority of HTA’s accounting team has been in place less than one year, suggesting significant internal turnover and an inexperienced team overseeing the numbers.Download the report to read more…
- Previous Failure: U.S. Concrete filed for bankruptcy after the financial crisis: The industry is difficult given the commodity nature of the products, intense competition, and need to be close to the customer because shipping costs are material
- Becoming More Dependent on Shady Acquisitions: USCR has acquired over 20 companies since 2012. It recently outbid industrial giant Vulcan Materials for Canadian small cap Polaris Materials and also purchased firms with alleged historical ties to organized crime
- GAAP vs. Non-GAAP Strains: In 2017 there were a record number of adjustments to results, and yet Adjusted EPS grew by just 4%
- USCR Claims Mid To High Single Digit Organic Growth: Evidence suggests organic growth is overstated, and mostly a function of pass through commodity price increases. We note realized prices by USCR hit a 5yr low in 2017, and have continued lower in Q1’18
- USCR Makes Organic Growth Difficult To Calculate: USCR selectively discloses figures in periods when good, not bad. The Company has generally done a poor job of breaking out acquisition contributions in SEC filings
- CEO Concerns and Rapid CFO Turnover: A routine background check of the CEO reveals an undisclosed DWI arrest for reckless driving, calling into question his judgement. USCR is on its fourth CFO since 2012. Recent CFO John Tusa, Jr. resigned after serving a little more than one year
- Two Ways To Value USCR Point To 60% – 90% Downside Risk: Given our analysis that shows distortions in USCR’s Non-GAAP figures, we believe the best way to value the Company is on Free Cash Flow. We expect further deterioration which began three years ago, and apply a 20x – 25x multiple to reflect a discount to the peer average for its above average exposure to ready-mix, poor roll-up economics, and growing liquidity risk. Secondly, we adjust USCR’s book value for an estimated $60 – $85 million of overcapitalized costs to its vehicle property accounts and apply a 1.0x – 1.5x multiple range. These valuation perspectives indicate 60% to 90% downside or approximately $6.00 to $25.00 per share
- Mercury’s Adj. EBITDA margins of 23.4% are extremely high for a government subcontractor, and have grown 450bps in the last three fiscal years, allowing Adj. EBITDA to balloon 112% while its free cash flow grew zero over the same period. Free cash flow is now trending down over the last 12 months. Days inventory and its cash collection cycle are near all-time highs; accounts receivables recently started to exceed sales
- Historically, radar systems is Mercury’s largest business, but now appears to be declining, while “Other Revenues” is the fastest growing segment. Mercury changed its financial presentation to bolster gross margins, while guidance for gross margins has quietly been talked down. For the first time in Q2’18, Mercury missed its gross margin (and EPS) target
- Mercury sells itself as growing revenues organically 9.5% (double its end markets), yet we find evidence these results are not sustainable and growth may slow to 6.5% in CY 2018. Mercury announced the purchase of Themis Computer on Dec 21, 2017 (four days ahead of Christmas). It paid a rich 13.7x EBITDA multiple, and borrowed $189m on its line of credit. In our opinion, the deal appears motivated to avoid missing Wall Street’s expectations. Consistent with prior practice, we expect Mercury to issue stock to pay down its line of credit, which at the current share price, amounts to 4m new shares
- Mercury added one sentence to its latest 10-K to disclose it expects to lose its Small Business status in FY 2018, a factor that will cause a Material Adverse Effect by disqualifying it from certain business opportunities and increasing costs of compliance
Echo Global Logistics (“ECHO” or “the Company”) was founded in 2005 to roll-up the transportation logistics / brokerage sector.Our Initial Concerns About ECHO From September 2016 Proved Prescient: In our initial report entitled “Logistical Nightmare”, we warned about ECHO’s terrible management, failed roll-up strategy in the transportation logistics sector, aggressive use of Non-GAAP results, and its inability to maintain its competitive position in an increasingly technology-centric environment, would all lead to severe disappointment. ECHO’s analysts were calling for a $29 price target at the time, but with shares at $27, we argued the risk/reward was skewed towards 50% – 60% downside. With successive earnings disappointments, and mounting evidence that ECHO’s acquisition of Command Transportation in 2015 was a bust, ECHO suspended long-term guidance and its acquisition strategy in July 2017. ECHO’s share price reached a low of $13.00, hitting our long-term price target range. Command Deal Increasingly Looks Like A Bust: Our initial report warned that ECHO significantly overpaid for Command Transportation, and encumbered its assets with $230m of debt for a people-intensive asset light business. ECHO hyped $200 – $300m of revenue synergies, and an integrated technology platform that would provide significant earnings leverage. After millions spent on integration costs, capital expenditures and even a fancy new headquarters, ECHO has failed to come even close to its revenue synergy target.
- Shark entered the robotic vacuum market as we predicted in June, a major negative!
- We believe SharkNinja strives to be the #1 or #2 leader in markets it enters. Based on its track record in traditional vacuums and blenders, we believe SharkNinja is a credible threat to iRobot
- SharkNinja’s displacement of Dyson in vacuums was a result of a laser-like focus on the consumer, and its ability to engineer a superior product at a value price point. As an organization, Linkedin data shows that SharkNinja employs more engineers than sales or marketing people
- We believe Dyson failed to gain traction with its robotic vacuum because its price point of >$1,000 was simply too high, and it did not deliver meaningful performance advantage to the customer. Simply stated, Dyson could not offer a compelling value proposition while SharkNinja appears well positioned to do so
- Given SharkNinja’s marketing prowess stated to be $130m annually (2014 figures), we wouldn’t be surprised to see it spend at least 10% or more of this annual budget to ensure the success of its debut robotic vacuum series
Spruce Point is pleased to release its report on TSO3 Inc. (TSX: TOS and OTC: TSTIF)TSO3 Is Just Another Canadian Healthcare Promotion: The Canadian markets are littered with recent examples of healthcare stocks in need of urgent medical attention, wounded from over-promotion, questionable practices, and poor performance. Short sellers made early warning calls on many names down >80%: Valeant, Concordia, Nobilis, CRH Medical Disclosure Issues & Obfuscating Its Actual End Market Sales: TSO3 is not disclosing its installed base and the reason is obvious – if it did, investors might see just how poor its product’s end market acceptance actually is. In Q3’16, TSO3 suggested it would provide clarity on its installed base in early 2017 – investors are still waiting…. TSO3 even stopped disclosing consumables sales in Q2’16. It currently recognizes as revenues shipments to Getinge, its 3rd party distributor (183 units since Q1’16). However, our math and field checks suggest at best 10 units are actually installed at end customers (95% difference to shipments). TSO3 Using the “Partnership” Playbook To Hype Its Potential: Déjà vu, TSO3 is repeating a twice failed playbook. Recently from 2009-2013, alongside of 3M: TSO3’s single product cycle ended with no material sales, termination of their partnership, and a legal settlement in favor of 3M. TSO3’s prior two generations of this product also failed (the current 3rd generation VP4 appears eerily similar to the 2nd generation – not surprising given the low R&D spend). TSO3 Overstating Its Total Addressable Market (TAM): All good promotions involve baiting investors with big addressable market opportunities. TSO3 appears to have overstated its true market potential by >30% units and C$170m. We provide evidence of the Company playing fast and loose with its numbers. Download the report to read more.
Spruce Point is pleased to release its updated report on iRobot Corp (Nasdaq: IRBT)New research into iRobot’s recent distributor acquisitions further calls into question the reliability and accuracy of the Company’s financial guidance. If iRobot cannot give further clarity, we believe its guidance should be suspended. Distributor acquisitions need to be heavily scrutinized given the related-party nature of the transactions. Its Japanese and European distributors act as exclusive agents for iRobot with nearly 100% of revenues from iRobot products. •The 2017E sales implied from Robopolis from iRobot’s incremental margin contribution forecast doesn’t make sense Further evidence of issues with the Japanese distributor acquisition emerge from our research. Download the report to read more.
Gentex (Nasdaq: GNTX) is a supplier of dimmable mirrors for the auto and airline industry. Its products are commoditized and require nothing more than plastic moldings, mirrors, chemicals, printed circuit boards, and other inputs such as compasses. Its financials suggest it to be a wildly profitable company, yet our forensic analysis uncovers numerous red flags to suggest otherwise.Gentex’s IPO in the early 1980s is littered with red flags. Its dimmable mirror was a carrot to bail out its struggling smoke detector business, and its management put no capital at risk. Gentex’s success has defied all the odds: it now commands a $5bn market cap and claims >90% market share. Its lead IPO underwriter and banker, OTC Net founded by Juan Carlos Schidlowski, was a notorious penny stock promoter who was later charged by the SEC and fled the country. Gentex’s 40% gross margins are vastly superior to all global auto suppliers and are likely overstated by 2x. We believe it’s aggressively leaving costs in inventory (inventory growth is 3x revenue growth) while inflating capex through nonsensical projects (e.g. its North Riley Campus is 90% over initial budget). We commissioned a product tear down by IHS, an automotive expert, to examine its components. In our view, Gentex’s rhetoric pertaining to its mirror’s level of proprietary components and vertical integration is likely exaggerated. We also have documented proof of capex misstatement. Despite margins and profitably that dwarfs auto supply peers, Gentex policies that are touted as shareholder friendly are not what they appear. Its dividend growth has been well below the rate of its reported free cash flow growth, which is likely overstated, and its share repurchases are mostly to offset dilution. Gentex has amassed an abnormal amount of cash on its balance sheet, and has irregular Level I and II classifications. We believe Gentex has shunned M&A to avoid outside scrutiny. The only acquisition of note in its history was of HomeLink, a related-party deal where we find issues. Download the report to read more.
Spruce Point is pleased to release its updated report on iRobot Corp (Nasdaq: IRBT)With iRobot’s share price up 300% since 2016, investors are cheering the re-acceleration of sales and earnings growth following years of disappointment, and ascribing a peak valuation to plateauing earnings. Spruce Point believes the financial improvement reflects temporary factors and may not be sustainable. We expect new competition to storm the market, and challenge iRobot’s US market share dominance. iRobot’s recent financial performance reflects restocking of its supply chain after years of false starts, the removal of the struggling military business, and the acquisition boost from its Japanese distributor. We believe these factors will create very difficult comparisons for iRobot to lap in the future, and create headwinds for future share price appreciation. Furthermore, we believe recent gains are a result of lowering the price of its Roomba to move down market, which we believe is a long-term negative on margins for a technology hardware company with a narrow product focus Investors are overlooking financial control issues tied to iRobot’s recent acquisition of its Japanese distributor. The Company suspiciously retracted certain statements made about Japanese sales growth (reversing big gains to declines), and made revenue and earnings revisions which don’t add up. Spruce Point has previously pointed out early warning signs at Sabre and Caesarstone, both which made related-party distributor acquisitions ahead of extreme financial revisions. Market observers will note that Valeant’s attempt to buy Philidor was another canary in the coal mine. Download the report to read more.
RADIANT LOGISTICS INC. (“RLGT” or “the Company”) is a company that specializes in transporting unique or difficult shipments.
Radiant’s CEO Bohn Crain and first General Counsel Cohen were executives at Stonepath Group (AMEX: SRG / OTCBB SGRZ), whichcrumbled when it admitted financial and accounting irregularities tied to revenue overstatement / expense understatement. An SEC inquiry commenced, allegations of fraud were made, and Stonepath was delisted, and faded to the pink sheets and insolvency
The SEC has already questioned Radiant’s accounting, and it has made the scary disclosure that its margin method, “Generally results in recognition of revenues and purchased transportation costs earlier than the preferred methods under GAAP which does not recognize revenue until a proof of delivery is received or which recognizes revenue as progress on the transit is made.”Don’t expect Radiant’s minor league auditor named Peterson Sullivan to spot problems, Radiant pays them minuscule audit fees and three Peterson employees (2 partners) have been cited in less than two years for professional misconduct by the PCAOB and SEC
Echo Global Logistics (“ECHO” or “the Company”) was founded in 2005 to roll-up the transportation logistics / brokerage sector. Founded by the same people behind Groupon, and another public company noted originally by Barron’s in 2007, Echo has yet to be fully exposed until now. Led by Eric Lefkofsky and his partner Brad Keywell, these inter-related, yet distinct publicly traded businesses share the same founders, business address, auditors, and same modus operandi of hyping “proprietary” and “disruptive” technologies capable of earning “massive” profits in large, fragmented markets. In our opinion, time and results have shown these predictions have failed to live up to initial expectations, and have lead to large shareholder losses to post IPO investors, but enriched its founders and early backers who quickly dumped stock.
AECOM (“ACM” or “the Company”) is a global engineering and construction firm based in Los Angeles, and is an enormous roll-up that came public in 2007. Bowing to pressure from an activist to maximize shareholder value, URS Corp (URS) sold itself in October 2014 to AECOM (for approx. $5bn –a cash/stock deal which included the assumption of $1bn in URS debt). The URS deal is the largest in AECOM’s history.
The URS deal was touted as giving AECOM “heft” in the oil and gas market, at exactly the wrong time! As shown by the investor presentation, URS also added exposure to the mining and industrial sectors –other areas that have shown persistent weakness since 2014.Spruce Point has been following AECOM, and has generally viewed its post-deal financial results with skepticism. Our view was fortified when on Aug 10, 2016 after reporting Q3’16 results, AECOM filed an amended 10-K/A.
In our opinion, Tower is a collection of old semi foundries cobbled together from acquisitions, which produce significantly below industry average GAAP gross margins (from 2012-2014 Tower 9% vs. 23% peer average). Having gone through numerous financial restructurings in the past, Tower promotes large revenue goals reaching $1bn, and a large Non-GAAP EPS headline of questionable merit, but has amassed ($695m) of negative cumulative free cash flow since 2004! Not having the capital support or free cash flows to fund the large capex requirements to compete in the semiconductor manufacturing industry, Tower spends just 15% of sales on capex vs. peers at 40% of sales. Download our research report to learn more…
Formed from Canadian shell companies, Intertain has completed four acquisitions, each of which has gotten larger and fed Intertain’s ‘growth at any cost’ mentality which is likely to end in disaster. Intertain’s initial transaction was with Amaya Inc (a 2.7% owner), whom is currently being investigated (by FINRA) for insider trading (the largest investigation ever in Canadian history). Intertain acquired Amaya’s InterCasino brands for C$70m. Amaya acquired these assets through its acquisition of Cryptologic (where Intertain’s CEO was General Counsel). Our diligence suggests Cryptologic paid a ‘nominal amount’ for the Malta’s InterCasino gaming license. Our research closely explores Intertain’s acquisitions and finds significant issues for a majority of the deals, notably the Gamesys acquisition.
Since Spruce Point’s initial report on Caesarstone (Nasdaq: CSTE or “the Company”), which highlighted many fundamental issues facing the Company, along with potential accounting irregularities. In our opinion, many of the open questions remain inadequately addressed, or completely ignored, by the Company and its group of supporting analysts. Spruce Point’s follow-up report reiterates open questions and delves deeper into the issues we believe are facing Caesarstone.
This report will highlight additional potential accounting issues which are related to capital expenditures.
Spruce Point is pleased to release its latest report on CAESARSTONE SDOT-YAM LTD. (NASDAQ: CSTE). Caesarstone’s (CSTE) price recently corrected after Q2’15 earnings beat Wall St. estimates, but it cut its sales guidance from $515-$525m to $495-$505m, while maintaining its EBITDA guidance. We believe this is the canary in the coal mine, and CSTE is at continued risk of missing its goals in light of flat import tonnage growth and rising competition. CSTE trades at 3.4x and 13.5x 2015 Sales and EBITDA, respectively, a substantial premium to building products peers at 1.3x and 12.0x on the premise it can maintain share and grow sales 15% p.a. We believe CSTE should trade at a discount to peers of 8x – 10x EBITDA given our concerns about product and earnings quality, its shares would be worth $11 – $29 (~40% – 75% downside) on a normalized 10-20% EBITDA margin range. Since its 2012 IPO, its controlling shareholder has reduced its ownership from 79.0% down to 32.6%; we expect continued stock liquidations by its majority owner
Spruce Point is pleased to an updated report on NCR Corp.(NYSE: NCR). In our follow-up report, we will profile a blatant example of poor judgment and capital allocation to support our opinion that NCR’s shareholders should demand immediate change at the executive level. But first, let’s review NCR’s recent quarter and further dispel any notion that value enhancing alternatives are imminent and that NCR had a stellar quarter where it “Beat” street estimates.
Spruce Point is pleased to release its latest report on GREIF INC (NYSE: GEF/GEF.B). Greif (GEF) is in the business of industrial packaging products and services. Its businesses appear largely commoditized, are capex intensive, and under severe pressure from FX headwinds ( Venezuela, Brazil, Russia, Europe) and slackening demand tied to pressures in various end markets ( e.g. energy ). Overall, the company is experiencing deflationary-like pricing power and very low single digit / declining volumes.
Spruce Point is pleased to release its latest report on AMETEK Corp (NYSE: AME). With Limited Organic Growth, Ametek is Under Pressure as its Strategy Appears to be Hitting a Brick Wall. It Underinvests in R&D and Buys What it Cannot Develop. This Strategy Inherently Benefits its Margins and EPS, Which We Have Evidence that Suggests Are Overstated By Up to 600bps.
Spruce Point is pleased to release its latest report on iRobot Corp (Nasdaq: IRBT). Media Hype of a Robotics Revolution (Similar To 3D Printing Craze) Is Overblown. IRBT Is Hyping Its IP Portfolio, But Lacks A Monetization Strategy. The Hype Is To Divert Attention From Its Core Problems
Prescience Point is pleased to release its latest report on LKQ Corp (Nasdaq: LKQ). The 122 page report outlines extensive research into the companies financial reports and we believe the following: LKQ is an ineffective roll-up, they are caught in a massive margin squeeze, problems with their new growth story, dramatic overvaluation, and previous fraud and failures.
Just Energy (NYSE: JE / TSX: JE) is a company that U.S. consumers and investors are quickly realizing has become toxic to their wallets through deceptive energy marketing practices, and harmful to their brokerage accounts.
Prescience Point follow-up report on Boulder Brands’ (Nasdaq: BDBD), consisting of a deep-dive look at the company’s Q4’2012 results and management’s 2013 guidance. In short, the story does not add up and we expose the red flag components of its missing pieces.
Amidst a storm of investor distaste for U.S.-listed Chinese equities, and with its shares trading at a fresh 5-year low earlier this year, AsiaInfo-Linkage, Inc. (ASIA) followed the precedent of numerous other Chinese companies in announcing it had received a “Go-Private” proposal on January 20, 2012.
In this report, we explore United States Antimony Corp (Amex: UAMY) which made its graduation from the bulletin board to the AMEX on May 21st at approximately $4.00 share, giving the company a $275 million valuation.
On February 23rd, Bazaarvoice (Nasdaq: BV) raised $114 million at its initial public offering by selling 9.5 million shares at $12 per share. The expected pricing range was $8.00 – $10.00 per share, and the shares ultimately closed at $16.50 on the first day of trading. At today’s price of $17.00, the company’s fully diluted enterprise value is approximately $1.1 billion.
LQMT is a highly promoted penny stock with a market cap that exceeds $125 million, and highly speculative business prospects. However, a little due diligence reveals a company with a troubled past, as highlighted in an earlier article written by StreetSweeper in 2010, a convoluted capital structure, and a virtually insolvent business.
Global Sources Ltd. (Nasdaq: GSOL) is perhaps the original and oldest existing China RTO Company in the US stock market. In March 2000, Global Sources exchanged 100% of its shares for a 95% stake in Fairchild (Bermuda) Ltd., a subsidiary spun‐off from the now bankrupt Fairchild Corp. Through this deal, Global Sources obtained a public listing on the Nasdaq in order to provide liquidity to shareholders and a venue for raising additional source of funds for expansion.
A closer look into Camelot Information Systems (“CIS”) and their position in the Chinese Information Technology industry reveals numerous question marks investors should consider.
All around the world, biodiesel is a challenging business with high capital costs, cyclical gross margins and returns on capital. There are limited barriers to entry as production processes to make biodiesel are well understood and can be accomplished by specialty chemical plants of all sizes.
ZST Digital Networks (OTCPK:ZSTN) came public in October 2009 and raised $25 million by offering 3.1m shares at $8 per share. The offering was led by Rodman & Renshaw and Westpark Capital, two ubiquitous underwriters in the market for bringing Chinese companies public in the U.S. through reverse takeovers (RTOs).