Saturday, March 6, 2010

Microvision: Stock at the End of its Transition Phase

Every growth stock falls into 1 of 3 categories…

1. The Romance Phase

2. The Transition Phase

3. The Reality Phase

Most growth stocks tend to pass through three phases of growth… romance, transition and reality. By knowing which phase a stock is in, you can quickly determine whether the profits are just beginning… or the well is drying up fast. Needless to say, this can make the decision to buy, sell or hold significantly easier. And its decisions like these that will make or break your success in investing.

You may say that in case of Microvision, the romance is gone and the transition is at an end, and the reality of situation [green laser issue] has become clear. And in your opinion in this phase, the company’s entire financial future depends on the availability and the cost of green lasers. Since the company has made no effort to incorporate any other type of light source to power its PicoP Display Engine, the core of its entire product line, it is fair to say that Microvision will thrive or perish by the green laser sword.

Some of you have lived through the romance phase, which peaked in year 2000 with the MVIS stock trading well over $63… at a time when there were no real products, and just a few patents on a very promising laser based MEMS image scanning technology. Those that did not cash out after the romance phase, the most profitable phase, and are still holding the MVIS stock and they have battle scars to prove their passage through the three phases of growth in the life of a company. Now we are at the tail end of the transition phase, when blemishes appear and public’s perception of the company starts to diminish.

If you feel that we all have made a mistake in believing and staying too long in MVIS stock and are in the same boat at this point in time? We all have, for whatever the reason, stayed little too long in this stock and are now paying the price of dealing with uncertain future and muted enthusiasm of a product launch… that revolves around a core component from green laser supply chain! If that’s what you believe, and can think with a cool head and not point fingers, then continue reading, as I would like to share some facts, figures and analysis?

Microvision story is not over yet. It is, however, certainly the end of the romance phase and we are now successfully transitioning to the reality phase. If you dig deeper, you will find that it is just the beginning that is based on reality of Microvision’s financial and cost structure and will resume its momentum to renewed success based on improving availability and cheaper cost of green lasers… the Achilles heel to Microvision’s financial success. This may sound like a wish full conclusion to Microvision saga… but fortunately that happens to be the conclusion of my analysis based on findings of facts and figures.

So stay tuned and let’s continue with our analysis…

The Romance Phase: is the most profitable phase by far and is the one that you’ll want to focus on… that is, if you were lucky enough to be around during the early life stages of Microvision in year 2000. It’s in this phase that a fortune can be amassed very quickly, long before most investors are even aware that the company exists. Yet at some point, the stock’s price and its Relative Performance (RP) line will reach all-time highs. This tells you the Romance in the stock has peaked. This is when most analysts, if there are any following the stock, would recommend selling it. In case of MVIS stock, the first Romance peak took place in March of year 2000 when the stock traded in the $63 plus range.

The second Romance peak took place in June of 2007 when the management announced “Agreement with Motorola”. At the height of this Romance peak, the MVIS stock traded in the $6 range. It happened too quick [in less than two months] and the RP line indicated that it had not peaked and there was lot more momentum left for the stock to go still higher... to over $10 or so we believed. Also, the pico projector sector was just in initial stages of taking-off... as we know is happening right now. It took us a few months to realize the issues with SHG green laser technology and the resulting cost and supply constraints.

In hindsight, we may call it our greed that made us stay in this stock too long or may be it was our collective belief that there was more good news to come. How could it all start, take-off and crash in less than three months? Well, it did and the reasons are too well known to all of us so I won’t repeat them here.

The Transition Phase: can last from few months to several years. In case of Microvision, the Transition Phase started in September of 2007 when I first wrote about the technical issues that Corning was having with their SHG green lasers. This is when the blemishes appeared and the public’s perception of the stock started to diminish. It’s at this stage in the life of a company, like Microvision, that the company’s technology may fumble, the earnings may stumble [if there were any], the cash flow may turn negative [or cash burn may accelerate], the financing may disappear, the flaws in business growth strategy start showing-up in negative revenue growth [or as loss of revenue] and other issues start popping-up such as legal, financial, and key employee departures, etc.

Sooner or later the issues will get resolved and the company’s earnings will grow again… but only after the stock has bottomed and then, after an excruciating period, has started its next major advance.

Now we are at the tail end of the “Transition Phase”. During the Transition Phase, the blemishes [like technical problems with green lasers] appeared and public’s perception of the company diminished to such low levels as to bring the MVIS stock down to $0.80 in March 2009.

Many of the red-hot lovers who romanced MVIS on the way up have left the stock, and it's their selling pressures, driven by reduced perceptions, that have been pushing the MVIS stock down… and the bear market of 2008 hasn't helped, either. Every time a diehard long who had sworn to hold the stock forever gives up in disgust, the stock is pushed a little lower.

It's not the company's fault that Corning had repeatedly failed to deliver on the SHG green laser, a core component for making laser PicoP projectors. If the delay was reasonable, and not the 30 months, the MVIS stock would have traded rationally, based on earnings from a potentially gigantic global market. This stock would have been nowhere near as low as the 80 cents last March, and it would be certainly traded higher now than it currently is… at $2.69 and excruciating to hold it at this level.

But stock prices are determined by investors. And investors are people. People who fall-in and fall-out of love! People who buy with visions of profits and sell in disgust when their dreams are dashed! People who drive stocks to irrational heights and then sell them to irrational depths! That's what makes investing a challenge ... and very profitable, if you know what you're doing.

The Reality Phase: With Romance gone and the transition at end, the reality of the situation has become clear. In this final phase, the Reality Phase, the company could have taken one of the two roads… the road to renewed success… or the road to oblivion.

Microvision has struggled for over the last 30 months to deal with the core component─ green laser─ supply issue during the Transition Phase. All through this phase, Microvision managed to stay funded and fully staffed to aggressively pursue product development and continue with research to enlarge its intellectual property rights.

Finally, Corning has resolved its green laser yield issues and is now ramping production. Osram is coming on-line rapidly to become the second source of SHG green lasers… with a better, cheaper and higher yielding product. During the Transition Phase, Microvision management made some hard decisions to control cost, proactively raise funding─ even though it was considered unpopular with the investors, and aggressively pursued R&D to enlarge its IP portfolio and took measures to protect its intellectual property.

Over this last cycle, in my opinion, the MVIS stock price has bottomed at $1.96. The Transition Phase is over and the Reality Phase has kicked-in, or it will on March 8th after the earnings conference call.

It’s then; when analysis of the stock should become a little easier for investors who base their decisions on fundamentals. If the company's sales and earnings are growing, as I expect them to do very rapidly, the stock will rise, too. But it will do it in a far more rational manner, reflecting the reality of the company's sales and earnings growth potential over the next few years.

Before I leave you, consider this…

We are truly at the turning point in the history of Microvision, that some may call the “Validation Phase”. Because, that’s what the commercial release and the three purchase orders─ from global consumer electronic OEMs and the World leading mobile phone operator, represent …

• Validation of Microvision’s laser based PicoP display engine technology, its quality, its reliability, and a viable commercial fabrication & production milestone.

• Validation of performance and quality of PicoP display engine at the core of the world’s first laser based PicoP projector SHOWwx.

• Validation of Corning green laser technology, its reliability, and a viable commercial fabrication & production milestone.

• Validation of technical and performance superiority of laser based PicoP projector as compared to other two technologies on the market… like DLP from Texas Instruments and LcoS for 3M.

• Validation of consumer preference for Microvision’s PicoP projector: wide screen, high definition, longer battery life, 2D video with fast refresh without motion blur, small physical size, always in focus images for all of video [static, streaming, and broadcast] communications, and no waste heat generation.

• Validation of acceptable safety standard for laser based PicoP projectors in consumer use and adoption.

• Validation of speckle as a non-issue and as virtually non-existent with Microvision’s laser based PicoP display engine.

• Validation of fundamental design flaws of Microvision competitors: low resolution images, faded colors, short battery runs, longer throw distance, and requiring constant manual focus adjustments… and the waste heat, hot enough to cook eggs sunny-side-up.

• Validation of Microvision as a product company rather than just a R&D house with 200 issued and filed patents and with many more to come.

• Validation of global consumer electronic OEMs recognizing laser as a viable and superior alternative to DLP, LcoS and FLOCS technology.

• Validation of growing demand for Pico projectors from carriers and content providers on a global basis.

• Validation of consumer demand for quality Pico projectors.

• Validation of growing demand for green lasers and the ensuing competition in green laser product arena.

Microvision is ready as a supplier of laser Pico projectors to consumers and Pico display engines to its OEM partners… and offers the best of breed Pico display technology.

Is Microvision ready for prime time SHOWwx time and worthy of your investment dollars, consider this…

Consider the RISK vs. REWARD:

First, read the transcript of the Report “The Next Big Thing”. There are 40 pages to this very well written report and will take you an hour or so to read… but it is well worth it. Here's the link...

After reading this report on Microvision stock opportunity, you will understand why the Risk vs. Reward is compelling and the stock remains a strong buy for over 100 fold increase in price per share (PPS) in the next 4 to 5 years… by the end of 2014.

Five years from now in 2014, the stock could easily trade in the $300 to $500 range. Here’s an educated projection…

• Worldwide Market Size: 2 billion units [cell phones, laptops, smartphones, iPods, iPhones, iPads, camcorders, digital cameras, gaming devices, and mobile TV/Projectors etc.]

• Worldwide Market Size: 1 billion units [wearable see thru displays]

• Market Adoption Rate: 10%... 300 million units

• Microvision Market share: 15% of 300 million units… 45 million units

• OEM price: $90 per PicoP display engine

• Revenue: $4 billion

• Net Profit Margin: 40%

• Net Profit: $1.6 billion

• EBITDA: Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortization: $1.5 billion [with operating expenses at $100 million]

• Interest Expense: $0 million

• Interest Income: $20 million

• Tax: $220million

• Depreciation: non cash and very small

• Amortization: non cash and very small

• Net Operating Income: $1.3 billion

• Earning Per Share: $13 on a fully diluted basis [100 million shares]

• Price Earning Ratio: 30 for a hyper growth company

• Price Per Share: $390 per share

In my book, the “Risk” is insignificant [may be 2% per year interest in treasury bills as the lost opportunity] as compared to the potential of making over 100 times your money in the next year 4 to 5 years… and that is on top of 4 times the money you have already made if you aggressively bought MVIS stock [at 80 cents] when recommended in March 2009.

Alex Tokman, CEO of Microvision, said in his March 6th earnings conference call: "the market demand for PicoP Display Engines will be larger than the supply."

This projection for 2014 could actually be low compared to the reality of the market place [like selling SHOWwx and its derivatives directly to US consumers] that will start to un-fold in the months ahead.

It’s ironic how we as investors act sometimes…

We chased MVIS stock to $63 during the “Romance Phase”; which peaked in year 2000… at a time when there were no real products, and just a few patents on a very promising laser based MEMS image scanning technology.

Today, with all the technology and production issues behind us─ with validation at hand, huge patent portfolio, OEM and Mobile phone carrier customer purchase orders, and recognition by industry like CES and MacWorld awards… we are now debating to buy or wait to buy the MVIS stock at $2.69.

What, am I missing something here?

Don't tell me it has something to do with hot milk!

Anant Goel