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Exclusive: 'People Want To Hear About Revenue Now, Not Bulls***' — Why Citron Research Is Short Luminar Technologies Stock

Benzinga · 01/06/2023 15:34

One of the themes of the last two years has been a growing number of lidar technology companies going public — many chose the SPAC route.

A hedge fund is now taking on one of those companies and shared with Benzinga exactly why.

What Happened: Hedge fund Citron Research, which is headed by Andrew Left, shared tweets Friday on why the company is short shares of Luminar Technologies (NASDAQ:LAZR), one of several lidar companies that went public via SPAC merger.

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“$LAZR stock looks like it's heading under $1. CEO Austin Russell uses every bit of jargon and double-speak at CES to avoid the fact that his company will not see any meaningful revenue in near future,” Citron tweeted.

Citron shared a quote from Russell at CES where the Luminar founder and CEO said, “I think the reality is the vast majority of the value of what we have, contracted value and everything is like in the second half of the decade.”

Citron asked if this quote brings confidence to investors.

Benzinga reached out to Andrew Left for comment on the tweets.

“Austin Russell wants investors to be patient for the ‘back half of the decade.’ What? Are you kidding me. Austin will not see any meaningful revenue in the near future,” Left told Benzinga.

Russell used “jargon and double-speak” while Luminar presented and shared company updates at CES 2023, Left said, adding, “People want to hear about revenues now, not bulls***.”

Left also criticized comments about Luminar’s mapping technology at CES, calling the company’s maps the best in the world.

“No, Google has the best mapping system,” Left said, explaining Citron Research is short shares of Luminar and is long shares of Innoviz Technologies (NASDAQ:INVZ), a competing lidar company.

“Look at Luminar’s market cap and compare it to Innoviz’s and Velodyne’s market caps. You know what I am saying! I am long Innoviz and short Luminar.”

Luminar’s market capitalization is $1.6 billion at the time of writing. Innoviz has a market capitalization of $539 million. Velodyne Lidar (NASDAQ:VLDR) has a market capitalization of $181 million.

Left also highlighted the wealth of Russell, one of the youngest billionaires in 2022 according to Forbes.

“He wants investors to be patient for the ‘back half of the decade’ yet according to the LA Times, Russell’s $220 million stock sale closed on July 1, 2021. The very next day, on July 2nd, he closed on an $83 million Los Angeles estate.”

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Why It’s Important: Luminar shared company updates and new commercial wins at CES 2023.

“2022 marked an inflection point for Luminar, as the first of its kind to move from R&D to production vehicles,” Russell said. “Our big bet on production consumer vehicles and enhancing, nor replacing, the driver is starting to pay off big time.”

The company said it saw multiple wins in the fourth quarter from automotive OEMs with more cars adding Luminar technology in 2025.

“The commercial success exceeded Luminar’s goal of 60 percent year-over-year growth in total program wins and exceeded its target of 60 percent year-over-year forward-looking orderbook growth,” the company said.

Luminar told Benzinga it will report its fiscal year 2022 revenue and provide guidance for fiscal 2023 at Luminar Day on Feb. 28, 2023.
“We expect our revenue to continue to grow exponentially both in 2023 and throughout the decade,” a Luminar spokesperson told Benzinga.

Luminar highlighted its acquisition of Civil Maps, a leader in lidar mapping for automotive. The company said it would demonstrate the 3D mapping technology at CES.

“These 3D maps are imperative for the next generation of assisted and autonomous driving technologies, as well as improving vehicle safety.”

Luminar told Benzinga the opportunity is to leverage its 3D lidar and Luminar-equipped vehicles over the next few years to create “something more comprehensive than has been created” in the automotive mapping sector.

“Last year, we acquired one of the HD mapping industry’s best teams with Civil Maps, and publicly announced our entry into 3D maps at CES.”

Luminar said the tweets by Citron Research are not correct.

“Both our near-term and our long-term business and revenue is exponentially accelerating. We are confident in our ability to deliver meaningful revenue in the next few years, and will have more to share in February.”

The spokesperson also highlighted that Randall has only had “one material sale in the ten years since founding the business, which occurred a year and a half ago.”

The spokesperson told Benzinga Randall has purchased Luminar stock 19 times on the open market since the company went public.

LAZR Price Action: Luminar shares are down 8% to $4.02 on Friday. Shares of Luminar are down 74% over the last year.

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