Market Takes a Short Sighted View of Mobileye

Without a doubt, the internet is easily one of the best things to ever happen for investors. Even just 15 years ago, unless you had a broker that would give you access to research reports from the major investment houses, odds are you got most of your information a day late in the Wall Street Journal just like everyone else.

These days, if you have a computer or even a smartphone, you can work some Google magic – or even just set up alerts for instant notifications – and get news that affects your stocks as it happens. That’s by no means a bad thing; alerts have saved my bacon on a tanking stock more than once. However, I also believe the near-instant availability of information has created a tendency to react to news without giving it a whole lot of thought.

I think that explains why Mobileye (NSDQ: MBLY), which drifted down on Friday along with the rest of the stock market, opened sharply lower this morning after Tesla announced a technology shift on its blog this weekend. The automaker, which has become a bellwether for investors who follow the smart car trend, said that it would begin using radar as a “primary sensor without requiring the camera to confirm visual image recognition.” The shorthand there is that Tesla’s autopilot systems will be using radar instead of imaging systems, and Mobileye makes those imaging systems.

But I believe this isn’t exactly bad news for Mobileye, nor is it entirely unexpected. Back in July I wrote about how Mobileye’s second quarter beat both revenue and earnings expectations, but the stock still tanked. The issue then was that Mobileye also announced that it was scaling back its relationship with Tesla after it had signed development deals with other automakers, which Tesla wasn’t particularly thrilled about. Tesla had also thrown Mobileye under the proverbial bus after a fatal accident back in May, when one of its vehicle’s crashed while in autopilot mode and killed the driver, saying the that accident was caused by the failure of Mobileye’s imaging system to detect a road hazard.

While Tesla’s sharp pivot away from imaging systems as primary sensors is a fairly radical move, the fact that Mobileye wasn’t going to be supplying sensors to them much longer had been pretty well telegraphed. Most of the other automakers that are working to develop smart, self-driving cars are also still relying on imaging systems as their primary sensors, so this really doesn’t change anything for Mobileye. That suggests Mobileye’s dip today is at least partly due to some investors tending to just react to news without putting a lot of thought into the long term ramifications of this development.

All of that being said, the fact that Tesla is shifting away from cameras could portend other smart car designers doing the same. So while I don’t think this is bad news for Mobileye in the immediate future, it is definitely good news for NXP Semiconductors (NSDQ: NXPI). While NXP isn’t a major supplier to Tesla, it does make the sort of radar chipsets that Tesla says its vehicles will begin relying on.

If Tesla makes the switch successfully, without accidents, it is possible other smart car makers might also make the switch. In the meantime, NXP makes an array of other sensors that are used in automotive applications, turning on headlights when low light, monitoring air quality in a vehicle and detecting low tire pressure to just name a few, so it’s well-positioned regardless.

Mobileye and NXP Semiconductors are both still buys under $42 and $97 respectively.

In Other News

Shares of our virtual reality play Immersion (NSDQ: IMMR) jumped more than 10% last week after Nancy Erba was appointed its Chief Financial Officer. New CFOs generally don’t draw a lot of attention, but Erba comes to Immersion after 22 years at Seagate Technology (NSDQ: STX). She served as a vice president there, working in Corporate Development, Business Operations and Planning, as well as Finance. She also helped to integrate about $750 million in M&A transactions there.

It’s not really clear at this point if the markets are interpreting her move as a harbinger of a buyout, or if investors are betting she’ll help the company in its elusive hunt for consistent earnings growth. While revenue at Immersion has averaged better than 10% annual growth over the past decade, earnings have been negative about as often as not mostly because of high expenses. Given Erba’s background, investors wouldn’t be wrong to think she can help rein those high costs in.

Immersion is still a buy up to $12.

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