2018 in review….

Given that we are closing in on the end of the year, I thought I would publish a quick recap on those positions that I previously wrote about, namely:

  • Pioneering Technologies
  • Titan Logix
  • Reliq Health Technologies
  • Total Telcom

Unfortunately, like most of the Canadian small cap market, all of these are either in the toilet or treading water. However, each of these has its own particular story. Without further ado, I’ll launch into it….

 

PTE logo

Pioneering has been perhaps the biggest disappointment of 2018, as not only did it fail to meet revenue targets, it’s share price also cratered catastrophically. As of today (December 12th 2018), Pioneering is trading at $0.10, roughly a  90% drop from its price back in late 2017. The short & not-so-sweet reason for this skid is “over promise and under deliver”. Given the attention and buzz that was created around Pioneering in 2016 and 2017, investor expectations became inflated, and when increased sales didn’t show up, the bottom dropped out of the share price.

For those of you that have been following this story, this is all old news. The real question is “what now” ? Now that the market cap is a shadow of it’s former self, is this company on the scrap heap, or does it have a future ?

Clearly, if I knew the answer to this, I’d already be on my island somewhere. That being said, we can take a look at “what is” to determine “what might be”:

  • The balance sheet (as of June 2018) remains debt free, with $5.7 MM of cash and short term investments.
  • Assuming that sales are still slow to materialize, and cash is still being burned up at the same rate, PTE could be consuming between $225,000 and $360,000 per month, or cash burn of $1.575 MM to $2.52 MM for the 7 months from July – Dec 2018.
  • If this is indeed occurring, then cash and short term investments, as of December 2018,  could be as low as $3.2 MM to $4.1 MM.
  • This in turn means that net equity per share (using the fully diluted share count) could be as low as $0.13 to $0.15 per share, after adjusting for cash consumed.
  • If one eliminates all long term assets, then the Net-Net book value per share (using the fully diluted share count) falls between $0.11 and $0.12 per share.
  • Lastly, if one adjusts for potential cash consumed, the adjusted Enterprise value (using the fully diluted share count)  is between $2.35 MM and $3.25 MM.

So, at todays price of $0.10, you are actually buying Pioneering on a “net-net” basis. Is this a good deal ? It depends – if the Pioneering Smartburner is no longer useful, or has become obsolete, then the value of the company is questionable no matter how low the price gets. However, what if sales do (eventually) show up ? Or better yet, what sort of sales have to show up to make a difference ?

If we take a look at the most recent PTE financials (9 months ending June 2018), PTE recorded about $4.5 MM in total costs. Note that we are excluding any gains / losses due to the derivative liability, as this appears to have worked itself off the balance sheet. If we adjust this $4.5 MM for non-cash costs (stock based compensation, amortization and depreciation), it’s reduced to $3.5 MM of cash costs, which suggest that full 12 month costs should land somewhere in the $4.7 MM range, which we will simply round to $5.0 MM. We also know that PTE has managed to maintain gross margins at 50%, so in order to break even on a cash cost basis, PTE needs to see $10 MM in revenue.

Is $10 MM in revenue a pipe dream ? Well, we know that for fiscal 2017, PTE did indeed record $10 MM in revenue at a 50% gross margin, so the answer is “no, it’s not a dream” – they have done it once, and I find it hard to believe that in fiscal 2017 they sold to every possible customer in North America.

Perhaps the better question is why anyone would buy a Smartburner to begin with. Lord knows I wouldn’t – I have a gas stove, and I like instant heat. However, we need to separate the idea of who has the purse strings from what people want. You’ll recall that at some point in your distant past, your parents told you to wear a helmet when you were biking, skiing, or doing most anything that suggested the potential for injury. You, being the disobedient child that you were, likely fought this edict, until such time that your parents reminded you that “while you live in this house, you live by our rules”. They controlled the purse strings, and regardless of your thoughts, you complied. The same is true here – the people that are going to be cooking on a Smartburner sometime in the future won’t be doing so because they want to – they’ll do so because the owner of that home said so.  That owner believes that the “de-risking” of their rental unit is well worth the annoyance of getting used to a Smartburner, as tenants are now less able to burn down the house. With compliant UL858 stoves already in showrooms (I have seen them), the trend for safer coil top stoves is here to stay. Naysayers would suggest that if compliant stoves are on the market, the landlord will just buy one of those. Well, maybe – if you have the nicest landlord in the world. One thing about landlords is they like to control costs. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) suggests that a basic coil top stove lasts between 18 and 22 years. If I am a landlord, I’m not shelling out $400 for a new stove if I can make my existing stove (which has another 10 years of life) compliant for half that cost. While you might concede this point, you might also be saying that the vast majority of landlords simply won’t buy a Smartburner, because nobody says they have too – and you are right. Pioneering doesn’t need every coil top stove to be converted, they just need some. To be specific, with over 40 million rental households in the US, they just need a very small slice of some.

So, at the end of the day, I don’t believe Pioneering is heading for bankruptcy. I do believe it was overpromoted (which led to the run to $1.50), but the concept of kitchen fire safety, an aging population, and all those rental households in the US have not gone away. I believe that at the current price of $0.10, PTE may provide some significant upside (assuming sales materialize), and is suitable for very risk tolerant small cap investors. Of course, I may be wrong, and that may cause people to call me various names, some unflattering. That’s ok – I’ve been called many things, and have survived them all. I continue to be long, and have purchased at the current price.

 

Titan Logix

Some of the things I end up going long on gets lots of press – and others don’t. Titan falls into this category, as despite consistent improvement, it keeps skipping along at basically the same price.

Titan year end numbers, released on November 29th, revealed the following:

  • Revenue up 28% vs prior year.
  • Cost of goods down 3% vs prior year.
  • Gross margin up 90% vs prior year.
  • All other cash costs up 8% vs prior year.
  • EBITDA is still negative but is significantly improved at  -$0.256 MM vs -1.11 MM.
  • The company remains debt free.
  • Book value is $0.51/share, and net-net value is $0.35 per share.
  • Cash & short term investments of $8.27 MM, or $0.29 per share.

While it is true that Titan is still EBITDA negative and burned a whopping $500,000 over the course of the year, this has to be viewed in the context of a recovering energy market. As we all know, commodities are cyclical – when prices are lousy, producers stop drilling, consumers keep consuming, and eventually prices start recovering. Around that time, producers decide to start drilling again, but since bringing new production on isn’t like flicking on the light switch, there tends to be a bit of a lag, at which time price really starts recovering – not exactly rocket science.

So Titan is managing to actually increase revenues (and gross margins)  while keeping a lid on G&A costs – all in the context of an energy market that isn’t running on all cylinders. This begs the question – what will things look like once activity starts to pick up even more ?  While I don’t know the answer to that, I do know that Titan remains a low risk play on the energy sector and has significant upside potential. At this point, the market is valuing a debt free company at slightly more than the assets on the balance sheet, suggesting that any future cash flows will be worth the square root of zero – a proposition which I don’t believe. While I don’t know when the market will notice, I’m glad to wait and potentially pick up more as the price drifts through the low ~ $0.50 range.

 

RHT image

I had never actually intended to write about Reliq, but when they released their infamous “we have to restate revenues” press release, they provided a textbook case of a company that I try to avoid like the plague. Overvalued, overhyped, and with a balance sheet and an exploding share count that assault the senses.

To be fair, I should point out that I did indeed own Reliq at one point, as I indicated in my prior post.  However, once the valuation of Reliq started to get beyond what I could understand, I sold for a tidy profit. I will freely admit that the company has never been a favorite of mine, and because of this I cannot profess to have the depth of knowledge that I might have with other positions. That being said, Reliq hasn’t given investors much to be happy about recently, so if you are bullish on Reliq, I’m guessing you’ve done your homework, or you are simply comfortable with the implied risk.

All of that aside, the question as always is “what to do today” ? The share price is obviously much lower, so perhaps this represents a reasonable entry point.

Whenever I’m about to take a position such as this, I try to map out where things are today versus where they might go tomorrow, which is not unlike how I view my position in Pioneering Technologies. For Reliq, I took the time to map out the numbers, as shown below:

Reliq valuation at Dec 14 2018

This table shows us the value (in terms of Market Cap and Enterprise Value, or EV) as of the most recent financials, and what the EV of Reliq might be as of December 31st 2018 assuming a low cash burn rate of $427,000 per month, and what the EV might be assuming a high cash burn rate of $1.03 MM per month. Both of those cash burn rates tie back to the most recent financials, where it indicated that Reliq used $1.28 MM ($427,000 per month)  after changes in working capital, or $3.1 MM ($1.03 MM per month) if you exclude changes in working capital.

Some of you may have noticed that I tend to focus on the EV/EBITDA multiple as a general yardstick for valuing a company, as this metric rolls market cap, debt, and cash into one ball of wax. As investors, we are always on the lookout for value, and a company that has high EBITDA and a low Enterprise Value is a reflection of that.

In the case of Reliq, I have shown what the EV could look like as of December 31st, and what sort of EBITDA an investor needs to expect in order to justify some sort of reasonable valuation. For instance, if you believe that Reliq will continue to burn cash at the “low” rate, then estimated year end EV of $23 MM suggests that you need to see EBITDA (at some future point in time) of $2.3 MM in order to justify a EV/EBITDA multiple of 10x.

What we can see is that Reliq needs to book somewhere between $5.75 MM of EBITDA for less aggressive investors who are willing to pay 4x EBITDA, and $1.77 MM of EBITDA for those investors who are very aggressive and are willing to pay 14x EBITDA.  Which leads us to the question – is this possible ? The short answer is maybe – but I’m not holding my breath.

If one takes a quick look at the Reliq financials going back to the year ending June 2016, you can see two things pretty quickly. First , EBITDA has been negative for every year, and not a “little bit negative”, or “negative and trending up”. It has simply been negative every year, and has gotten worse each year. In fact, EBITDA in this last quarter at -3.1 MM is worse than each of the fiscal years ending June 2016, 2017, and 2018.

Secondly, one can see that the cash in the company coffers has arrived as a result of share issuance. So, if you work for one of the firms that underwrote one or more of those share offerings, I must commend you on a job well done, as you managed to raise no less than $18 MM since 2016.

So, while I generally don’t shy away from speculative companies, I will be keeping my distance from this one till further notice. Perhaps Reliq will turn things around – but they’ve got a deep hole to dig themselves out of before that happens.

 

Total telcom logo

 

Since my initial post on Total (November 02 2018), not much has really changed, so this will be perhaps my shortest “update”. Nonetheless, Total did issue Q1 financials on the 29th of November ,which were largely neutral:

  • Q1 revenues essentially flat at $346K vs $345K prior year .
  • Cost of goods up 12% vs prior year Q1.
  • Gross margins down 5% vs prior year Q1, at 53% vs 58%.
  • All other cash costs down 6% vs prior year Q1.
  • EBITDA down 11% at $72K vs $81K vs prior year
  • Net earnings of $50 K flat vs prior year Q1.
  • The company remains debt free.
  • Cash on hand of $1.4MM, or $0.057 per share.

As the cop on the street would say, “nothing to see here, move on”, which is what I expect most of the market did. However, there are a few points worth noting that are still interesting. Firstly, its only fairly recently that Total has managed to be EBITDA and cash flow positive (Q1 of 2015), and since hitting this milestone, this is the best Q1 TTZ has recorded since then:

TTZ comparative Q1 since 2015.PNG

With the exception of shares outstanding, which have risen by a measly 1% since 2015, every other metric is improved: the cash balance is consistently growing, and EBITDA, cash flow, and earnings are all the highest they have ever been for a Q1. While this doesn’t necessarily predict the future, it sure doesn’t hurt.

Additionally, overall results for Total last year were muted by the fact that they actually lost some customers in the Environmental services sector (in the US). In addition to this, the heater controller segment was impacted by a shortage of vehicle heaters, which dampened their overall sales in this segment. Despite this, Total exited the year with net income of $476K, or EPS of $0.019.

So, while Q1 numbers weren’t blockbuster, they certainly didn’t make us run for the hills either. Based on what we can see today, barring a major catastrophe, it would seem reasonable that Total can at least repeat last years results. If they do manage to do that, then the current price of $0.18 suggests that an investor might see a flat share price or decline to around $0.14. To be fair, Total has traded as low as $0.12 in the last 52 weeks, but it only traded at that level for less than a month. For the vast majority of its “cellar dwelling”, it has tended to trade around $0.14. So, one could see a worst case loss of 33%, or a more likely loss of 22%.

On the other hand, if Total sees expansion in any one of it’s revenue streams, a lot of that incremental revenue flows straight to the bottom line. In my prior post I highlighted how the company now covers all of its costs from its recurring revenue stream, which means that any increases in existing revenue streams (or any new revenue) is “gravy”. To put this in perspective, for the year ended June 2014, Total booked revenues of $765K, whereas for the year ended June 2018 they booked revenues of $1.78 MM – a CAGR of 23%, all while maintaining gross margins of 50% or more. While last years revenue growth was an anemic 2%, Total previously had revenue growth of 6%, 38%, and 54% for the years 2015, 2016, and 2017. The gist of the argument is that it they have managed very significant growth, and I can’t imagine they recently have thrown up their arms and said “that’s good enough”. With management owning almost 30% of the shares, I’m guessing they have a strong interest in growing the company some more.

With this in mind, we continue to hold our position in Total, given that our cost basis is somewhat lower than the current price, and the fact that liquidity is sometimes limited. Assuming that Total does manage to garner more incremental revenues, we believe this could provide upside of 50% or more.

As always, these are only my thoughts & opinions. If you have questions or comments, I can be reached at greyswan2@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

Reliq Health, Part 2: More symptoms…

RHT image

After publishing Part 1 of this analysis, I received a few more emails than I usually do, most of them negative. Most of them said something like “you are an idiot”, and while I can’t necessarily dissuade anyone of their opinion, I can say this: those readers probably misunderstood my intent. My intent was not to say that “Reliq is a bad company”, rather it was to communicate the idea that “mispricing and overvaluation happen more often than not, and here’s how to avoid getting sucked in”. Simply put, through my own experience, I’m hoping to show some folks what to look for so that they can avoid the next such debacle. For others, who have more experience and wisdom than myself, I will admit that I probably won’t be able to enlighten you. In that case, you need read no further.

In Part 1, I detailed the signs and signals that I used to exit my position, which although it was well into the money, could have been much more into the money had I waited longer   . For those of you that might have bought in when I was selling, or even later, you might be asking a similar question. Specifically, while I might be wondering “why didn’t I sell later ?” , you might be asking “why did I buy when it was so expensive ?”, or why did I wait so long to sell ?”. Ultimately, I can’t answer all of these, but I can provide some insight into how one might have read the signals a little better.

When I exited my position in Reliq, the three year chart looked like this:

RHT at Nov 27 2017

Obviously, with my crystal ball being out of order, I left a lot of money on the table. However, many investors started piling in after this point, which brings us to the why – or more specifically, why did other investors buy in ?

The typical financing process of a small cap company: To answer why others are buying when some are selling, it’s probably useful to explore the typical financing process of a small cap company. Unlike large companies, small caps are for the most part “undiscovered”. They are undiscovered and ignored for a number of reasons, primarily:

  • Recently, indexing has become popular, which ignores very small companies.
  • In Canada in particular, small cap is synonymous with mining & energy, which many investors avoid.
  • Small companies have no name (or brand) recognition.
  • Institutional money tends to come in late, when the market cap has expanded.

All of these factors are barriers to large amounts of money flowing into small caps, but the last point is perhaps the most important, and in the case of Reliq, the biggest reason why you (or someone you know) bought Reliq.

When a small company starts out, they obviously have to raise money, some of which comes from founders. However, they may go out to the public market to do a small  initial raise. As I mentioned in my first post, this is how I got involved with Reliq. The investors that participate in this raise are typically very risk tolerant, and understand that they may lose their entire investment. In turn, these initial shares are usually relatively inexpensive (usually under $0.50), which gives these early investors leverage – if things work out.

As the company starts operating, it will end up following one of two potential paths:

  • Things muddle along, or don’t go well: The company may still be trying to find out what it wants to do when it grows up, or it may have figured that out, but is just burning cash too quickly (this is likely where Reliq is). The company, recognizing the need for further capital, has an interest in raising that capital at the best possible prices. Good press means the price stays strong, and attracts investors. The “formula” is basically: New idea (or good idea) + good press = increasing investor interest = the ability to raise capital at higher prices. 

 

  • Things go well. The company starts becoming profitable relatively quickly, so much so that it becomes self financing. When this happens, it may or may not draw attention to itself through press releases, and the share price may (or may not) move significantly. If the share price does not move significantly, it may provide an attractive entry point, assuming there is a disconnect between price and perceived value. Mostly importantly, because the company does not require extra capital, it does not engage the investment banking community. It then typically disappears from investors radar, as only the most savvy retail investors find it, and institutions likely ignore it. Institutions ignore it because the market cap is likely too small, and trading is too illiquid. The next time it makes a significant splash in the press is usually when it is acquired at a significant premium to the normal trading price. 

For many of you, I am willing to bet more than a $1.00 that you found Reliq via the first path, not the 2nd. From the emails that I have received, most investors have suggested that they are “down significantly”, which means they acquired Reliq at prices north of the current (October 22nd) price of ~ $0.60.

So the First Red Flag I’m trying to highlight here is excessive press. You may recall that in my first post, I started to think about unloading Reliq in the latter part of 2017. Not surprisingly, Reliq had lots of coverage from the investment community at that  time (and later), as one can see from this snapshot of the BNN website.

Reliq BNN shot

At the same time that institutions are starting to sing the Reliq song, retail stock message boards start going bananas. The screenshot below shows a flurry of activity on the Reliq message board in late 2017, which likely only became more intense as time wore on.

RHT stockhouse

This kind of coverage & discussion is great for momentum, as retail investors pile on while the broader investment community provides the impetus that the retail investor needs. A retail investor at this time would have been looking at the chart, and would likely have been gripped with the thought that “I’m going to miss this one”, which is only driven home by the voice of brokerages and institutional investors. Those institutional investors may or may not have interest in the long term story, but they can finally participate in the action as the market cap is getting bigger (which is what they need) and increased liquidity allows them to move in or out more easily. Lastly, the increased number of eyeballs on Reliq also provides for an opportunity to raise capital, which is exactly what happened:

RHT financing 2

RHT financing 1

So, for many of you, the coverage from analysts and/or retail investors was likely the “push” that got you to buy into the Reliq story, and the takeaway from all of this is a lesson your parents might have imparted upon you as a child: be wary of that kid that’s always telling you how awesome they are. That being said, many of you are frowning right now, wondering if maybe I’m throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Which is why we’ll move on to our Second Red Flag, which will require that we look behind the scenes.

So let’s assume that you, like many, thought that Reliq offered compelling value, and you bought in at $1.00 in late 2017, approximately the same time that analysts were covering it. At this point you wouldn’t have known it, but you could have done quite well. In fact, you would have had no less than nine months during which you could have unloaded Reliq for prices well over the (assumed) $1.00 purchase price. During this time an investor would have had no less than four distinct sets of financial statements to guide their decision – and in those financials, he or she could have seen the writing on the wall.

Below I have taken data from the four sets of financials issued, starting with year end financials for 2017 (released on October 30th 2017),  to the most recent 9 months released on May 30th 2018. Rather than show each of the financials in detail, I am simply showing key data that I believe communicates the story. Additionally, one should be aware that all income statement and cash flow information for quarterly financials has been annualized. So, when you see revenue of $2,274,622 for the period ending December 31 2017, this is actually the total for the 6 months of $1,137,311 x 2, which provides us with a rough forecast for what we might expect over the full year. While this is imperfect, it provides us with something directional.

Reliq 4 statements.PNG

Investors who were doing their homework noticed the following:

Revenue is growing: Absolutely. Revenue continued to trend up each quarter, which every investor loves. Nothing to complain about here.

Cost of goods & gross margins are staying healthy: COGS, after strangely disappearing in Q1, resurfaced, but managed to stay fairly constant at ~ 20% – 25%.

Expenses are out of control: This is where the train starts to come off the tracks. Some investors apparently didn’t notice that while revenues were growing each quarter, expenses were growing even faster – and every passing quarter was looking worse.

Net income is getting worse with each passing quarter: This is probably redundant, given our statement about expenses, but if some investors didn’t look at the expenses in detail, they should have noticed that net income wasn’t improving.

So with the income statement firmly in the penalty box, one might have turned to the balance sheet, which actually stayed quite clean. On the balance sheet, all the action happens on the asset side of the ledger.

Cash is growing – for the wrong reasons: Without a doubt, Reliq managed to grow its cash balances, but only because of capital raises. Each new round of capital diluted previous shareholders, but did provide some de-risking to the balance sheet. Investors that bought in to Reliq were getting the signal that “you are being diluted, and the company has to perform that much better in the future”.

Accounts receivable start ballooning: As we all know, this is what popped the bubble recently. While growing receivables by themselves are not necessarily an issue, they have to be viewed in the context of total sales. In the case of Reliq, this issue first shows up on the statements issued February 2018. At that time, Reliq had billed a total of $1.1 MM in the six months of operations ending December 31 2017, or approximately $2.2 MM if one were to forecast for the full year. Of the total $1.1 MM billed, approximately 75% was waiting to be collected. By the time the next quarterly statements were issued, this percentage had increased to 87%, as receivables totalled $1.99 MM on total sales of $2.27 MM. Not good.

With the balance sheet offering up little comfort, other than a large cash balance, an investor could have turned to the cash flow statement in hopes that something positive might turn up. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

Operating cash flows, including and excluding working capital, are negative: The only saving grace is that on the final statements released May 2018, total cash burn suggests that Reliq could operate for somewhere between 2 and 6 years, if it continues to burn cash at the same rate, which is why this section is amber instead of red.

Valuation continues to climb: Lastly, under the cash flow information, I inserted a table to show how the increasing share count of Reliq and the increasing price continued to signal a risky proposition. For example, by the time Q2 financials had been issued, investors had the opportunity to sell Reliq (in March of 2018) at prices between $1.63 and $2.62. Even at the much lower average price of $1.44 during the preceding months, the valuation of Reliq suggested that it had to hit approximately $4.4 MM of EBITDA for the year to be valued at a very rich EV/EBITDA multiple of 30x EBITDA. Given the actual state of the six month financials, this would require an astronomical jump in revenues.

So, while I started this section saying we would investigate what I considered to be the Second Red Flag, I guess in actuality it was one big flag made up of lots of little ones. That being said, there are some among you that might be thinking that the financial statement information is a lot – an awful lot – to go through. So, with that in mind, I’d suggest that there was a Third Red Flag that was probably easier to read.

Back to the chart: I have stated before that I am not really a technical kind of guy. However, I still do pay attention to technical factors,  as I believe there’s information to be found both in the technical and fundamental information.

The problem with charts is that most of us only have the chart today, when we really need the chart from yesterday. What I mean is that if we look at a chart of Reliq today, hindsight tells us that we should have sold. The trick is interpreting the signals when they are happening, not after. With this in mind, I have re-created what the chart of Reliq would look like at four different intervals. Please note that since I am not a “hard-core” technician, the charts I show provide only high and low price, volume, and the 10 and 30 week moving averages.

December of 2017: Congratulations! You are now a Reliq shareholder, at the bargain price of $1.00. Like many of us, you are a busy guy (or gal), so you don’t have the time to poke through financial statements. With this in mind, you decide to take a look at the 1 year chart of Reliq, which looks like this:

RHT Dec 16 to Dec 17.PNG

All the action is off to the right side of the chart, and there are three key things that I would takeaway from this chart:

  • Both high and low prices (darker blue line and green line) are leading both of the moving averages, and have been since approximately August of 2017.
  • Both of the moving averages are nice smooth lines, which are starting to crest upwards, after having been basically flat for a year.
  • The 10 week moving average is leading the 30 week moving average, which simply confirms that recent prices have been strengthening.

This chart says good things, and if I see a chart that looks like this and the company has reasonable fundamentals, I typically try and buy as much as I can. So at this time (December of 2017), this chart is what I would call all green. 

March of 2018: Wow – this thing keeps on going. You may want to think of taking some money off the table, as you have now doubled your original investment. The chart is basically a stronger version of the previous one – all systems are go.

RHT Mar 17 to Mar 18

Key points that are worth mentioning here (as of March of 2018) are as follows:

  • High and low prices have continued to lead both moving averages, and there is only one instance where price threatens to break through the 10 week moving average.
  • As the price continues to climb, price volatility has increased a bit.
  • However, overall, the comments from the previous chart are still valid here. Things are still pretty green. 

June of 2018: Storm clouds are on the horizon, as price has slipped, and things are not looking quite as rosy. If you haven’t taken any profits, you may want to consider doing so, as this chart is flashing red. 

RHT Jun 17 to Jun 18.PNG

Unlike the previous two charts, you are now seeing a different story play out:

  • Other investors have gone through the most recent statements, and are worried. Selling is starting to happen, and high and low prices have broken through both moving averages, which is usually bearish.
  • The 10 week moving average is pointing firmly downward, while the 30 week moving average still has bit of upward momentum.
  • This chart is telling you to either sell or pay close attention in the coming months, if you aren’t already. That being said, one could still sell out at prices well over $1.00.

October of 2018: You will notice that this chart only goes up to October 1st 2018, not the 16th, where the real action happens. However, this chart, like the previous one, is telling you to move on.

RHT Oct 17 to Oct 18.PNG

While there is a short recovery in late June / early July, the bulk of this chart communicates the following:

  • Price has been trending down, and has been firmly below both moving averages since August 2018.
  • The 10 week moving average is clearly pointing down, and the 30 week moving average, having come off its peak, is starting to do the same.

This chart, which preceded the October 16th announcement, is telling you to “sell” in no uncertain terms. 

So even if all the other signals escaped ones attention, the story told by the charts, the Third Red Flag, was there to see without looking at press releases or financial statements. The key, as always, was to be paying attention and to not let hope guide ones investment decisions.

 

When I started this series, I indicated that Part 1 would be about how I determined to sell Reliq (unfortunately, too early), and that Part 2 would be about how others might have read market signals to avoid the significant decline in share price. After posting Part 1, not only did I receive emails telling me how abhorrently stupid I was (that’s ok, I have thick skin), but some emails asking should I sell ?

 If you are still holding Reliq shares, and are wondering what to do with them, I would say this. Bear in mind that I’m compelled to issue the usual caveat that I am not an investment advisor, simply an independent investor. That being said, what would I do ? 

Very simply, based on my investment style, all the information that is available to me today, and my experience, I would not be a buyer of Reliq today. In it’s current state, it does not fit my investment philosophy. That being said, I will continue to watch it. For you, your decision to hold, buy, or sell should be based on:

  • How risk tolerant you are. If this meltdown has cost you a lot of sleep, then it may make sense to unload the shares.
  • Your time horizon. Are you trying to make a profit in a week, a month, a year, or 10 years ? It is always harder to be right in the very short term.
  • Are you working with a lot of capital ?  If you have a lot, then this loss shouldn’t impact you severely and you could continue to hold – and hope.

The bottom line is that Reliq is now firmly in the penalty box, and will find it more difficult to raise capital, so it very much needs to remedy its problems. If it does make a dramatic turnaround, meaning that it significantly increases revenues and actually collects on those revenues, then we will see a dramatic run up in share price. However, if Reliq simply “muddles along”, and there is no significant uptick in revenues and cash flow, then the share price is likely to stay flat or drift lower.

As always, these are only my thoughts and opinions. Let me know if you found this post informative, or if you just have questions or comments. I can be reached at: greyswan2@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

Reliq Health, Part 1: Bad vital signs…

RHT image

On October 16th, 2018, Reliq Health Technologies (RHT – TSX Venture) issued a press release indicating that the company would be “restating financials due to revenue collection issues.” Anyone that was long on Reliq immediately got the cold sweats, as the shares tanked on massive volume. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and a 5 day chart as of 11:00 EST on the 16th serves up a lot of words, most of them nasty:

 

RHT chart

Those of you reading this that are (or were) long on Reliq have either sold, are contemplating selling, or are perhaps even doubling down, as the company still has cash in the bank. That being said, the question that all of you are likely asking is how could I have avoided this train wreck ? In Part 1 of this series I want to discuss how I avoided it in late 2017, and in Part 2, how you (or other investors) could have done the same throughout 2018. Similar to prior posts, I use green, amber and red headings to simply indicate those issues that are good, neutral, or bad.

My involvement with Reliq: Before delving into the nitty-gritty, I always like to provide the background as to how (or why) a particular company was brought to my attention. In this case, the story is actually not that interesting. I participated in the private placement that preceded Reliq, and held “dead money” for a number of years. Occasionally I will participate in private placements, knowing full well that there is the possibility of losing 100%. In this case, I held various illiquid companies until one of them (Moseda Technologies) changed its name to what we now know as Reliq Health Technologies.

What does Reliq Health Technologies do ? As per their website, Reliq states that they “specialize in developing innovative software as a service solutions for the $30 Billion community care market. Reliq’s IUGO care technology platform is a comprehensive SaaS solution that allows complex chronic disease patients to receive high quality care in the home or other community based setting, improving health outcomes, enhancing quality of life for patients & families and reducing the cost of care delivery”. 

In plain English, I would translate this to mean that Reliq is introducing technology into the health care market to achieve the same or better outcomes while at the same time reducing costs. On the surface, this is an easy investment concept to grasp, and there is a clear value proposition. Clearly, the idea sounds like “a better mousetrap”.

I had been ignoring Reliq. But then, their chart got my attention: As I had indicated previously, my ownership in Reliq was simply a function of having participated in a private placement. Knowing that this wasn’t going anywhere for a while, I didn’t pay a lot of attention, until I noticed some life in the chart:

RHT tech chart

Having been “skipping along the bottom” for some time, Reliq started picking up in Q2-Q3 of 2017, and from a technical perspective, it didn’t look it was going to stop. So at this point, I started looking a bit deeper.

No cash on hand & lots of cash burn. At the time the chart was looking interesting, the most recent financials were those for the nine (9) months ended at March 2017. A quick look was all that was necessary – the balance sheet told me that Reliq had little money in the bank, and that it was theoretically insolvent.

RHT Mar 31 2017 balance sheet

 

However, a company can still get by if it’s not burning through it’s cash. A look at the cash flow statement killed that thought: Reliq had been burning through cash and raising capital via share issuance for some time already.

RHT Mar 31 2017 cash flow

 

Based on this information, it was clear to me that this wasn’t a fundamental story, at least not right now. Given that the fundamental story wasn’t compelling in any way, I resolved to take a look at the holdings of insiders.

Significant insider holdings:  A quick look at SEDI indicated that insiders did indeed own a significant amount of shares, approximately 11 MM of the 58 MM outstanding, or roughly 19%. So while the company clearly needed a capital infusion, insiders were at least going to feel the pain along with other shareholders.

Lots of coverage by analystsGiven that Reliq had raised capital by the time I was looking at them (Q2-Q3 of 2017), and clearly would need more, it was already a foregone conclusion that this story had been pitched to various investment firms looking for some work. What I did not know at this time was that as the Reliq share price picked up steam, one would eventually be able to find a total of 10 distinct interviews on BNN where Reliq was discussed, usually in bullish tones. For those of you that have some time, and enjoy the free entertainment, I’ve included the BNN link below.

BNN coverage of RHT

Lots of self promotion: As if Reliq didn’t have enough eyeballs on it already, it wasn’t shy when it came to issuing press releases. From August 1st 2017 through to December 31st 2017, Reliq issued ~ 20 press releases, more than enough to incent investor interest. For instance, the screenshot below shows a total of 9 press releases in a span of a little over 1 month. Arguably, 2 of the releases are IIROC related, and therefore are beyond the control of Reliq. Regardless, all of these press releases, in conjunction with analyst coverage, acted like a giant magnet – attracting investor eyeballs, and with them, more money to chase the Reliq story.

RHT press

No share buyback & rapidly increasing share count: This is fairly self explanatory. With no excess cash available to buy back shares, and a desperate need for cash to begin with, Reliq was ripe for dilution. At the time I was looking at them, total shares outstanding were ~ 58.4 MM, up from 49.4 MM the year before.

Easily understood business: As I indicated previously, the concept that Reliq was pitching was easy enough to understand – the use of technology to make the delivery of health care more accessible, more efficient, and less costly. While I didn’t have the ability to describe the details of how the technology was deployed, I could grasp the concept.

Potentially disruptive technology: Again, it was fairly clear that Reliq could significantly change the health care marketplace – if they could execute. Their ability to execute their plan was key, as without it, the story was simply one of hope. With that in mind, I decided to determine a “back of the envelope” valuation.  Specifically, what sort of sales growth would they have to achieve in order for the current valuation to make sense ?

Valuation – off the charts: Valuing an early stage company is always difficult. However, even if one can’t land on what the exact value might be (or should be), one can still try and understand the implied value of the firm, to see if it make any sense at all. This is what I determined to do with Reliq. 

Some time had passed since I had first started to look into Reliq, and at this point it was November of 2017, which meant I now had year end financials (year ending June 2017)  to work with. Since I had no way to forecast what actual revenue and expense numbers might be, I made a number of assumptions for what I considered to be a “best case scenario”, as follows:

  • Revenue: I had no idea what revenue might look like, so I projected various scenarios ranging from $1.0 MM to $15.0 MM.
  • COGS and Gross Margin: I decided to use the 2016 COGS% (58%) instead of the 2017 COGS% (80%), as using the 2017 COGS% would have required an astronomical jump in revenue.

RHT cogs

  • No growth in other expense items: I took total expenses for 2017 ($2,836127) and backed out amortization ($2,047), share based expenses ($243,305), and finance charges ($14,480) to arrive at an adjusted value of $2,576,295. I made the very optimistic assumption that Reliq could maintain expenses at this level, and used this value to calculate a go forward EBITDA value.
  • Total shares outstanding: I used the shares outstanding as of June 30 2017 (approximately 76 million shares) to calculate market cap and enterprise value.
  • Share price: I used the average price of the shares from November 01 to November 15 2017 (~ $0.65), as it was during this period that I was considering selling. The actual prices during this time ranged from $0.475 to $0.87.

Once I had all this information in hand, I had a handle on whether or not the valuation of RHT made any sense or not:

RHT ev to ebitda Oct 2017.PNG

To be painfully clear, Reliq had to increase revenue from $183,652 in fiscal 2017 to at least $9.0 MM, maintain gross margins of 42%, and have zero increase in all other expenses in order for the value of the company (at $0.65) to make any sense. Anything less than perfection meant that the company was likely too hyped, and the valuation made no sense. With this in mind, and given that I was well into the money at this price, I sold between $0.76 and $0.82 and redeployed the capital into other opportunities. 

However, as you well know, the Reliq story doesn’t end there. Having washed my hands of Reliq and redeployed the capital, I watched the share price climb as the market made a fool out of me (as it sometimes does). I was curious as to how high the price would go, and would occasionally take a look at the financials to see if the dizzying heights of the Reliq share price were somehow fundamentally driven. Given what I could see, I believed this was not the case, and I believe the information was there for investors to see the same. This is what I’ll discuss in Part 2, as I believe that many investors could have avoided the Reliq debacle, and the associated loss of capital.

As always, these are only my thoughts and opinions. Let me know if you found this post informative, or if you just have questions or comments.  I can be reached at: greyswan2@gmail.com