'Clowns' Allege Ubiquiti 'Completely Fraudulent'

By: John Honovich, Published on Sep 20, 2017

A short seller has alleged Ubiquiti is 'completely fraudulent'.

Ubiquiti's CEO has responded calling them 'clowns'.

Here is the short seller's Citron Research's report on Ubiquiti and embedded below is their video about Ubiquiti:

Poor Research

Citron's 'research' rests on numerous speculations that have no connection to fraud such as literally criticizing him for why he owns an NBA team and why he has never high fived Jim Cramer. Moreover, the short seller completely misunderstand's Ubiquiti's core customer base and their actual success with dealers.

Inside this report, we examine the claims and our critique.

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Vote / ****

Comments (60)

Ubnt surely has a unique business model that outsiders wouldn't understand. As an outsider, I can understand how these guys don't "get it". If your entire perspective about this company is built on a misunderstood market as a foundation, your whole evaluation will be skewed as well. They do look like clowns. 

I've met dealers and installers who swear by their EdgeMAX routers.  I know of no other option if you want a managed PoE router of that size.   (note that their micro PoE routers are passive PoE though).

They seem to be solid products and work as advertised.

This presenter should look a lot closer to home...masquerading as someone that knows what they are talking about and disparaging a successful company. Fraud is a very strong word and I would not be in the least bit surprised if Ubiquiti were to go down the legal route on this one.

Accusing a company of fraud is one thing....doing so while simultaneously short-selling their stock is something else entirely.

While I am no attorney, I have at least an armchair knowledge of securities law and libel laws.  If this dude has sold UBNT short, and is making these claims without clear basis, he can be opening himself up to a lot of repercussions.

Evidently the owner of Citron Research, Andrew Left, has a long history of claiming fraudulent companies and he has made it this far. I have not examined his track record to ascertain how good or bad his previous 'research' was.

That noted, I agree, calling anyone a 'fraud' with so little evidence is reckless.

he admitted he was short, if betting, i would also say he loaded up on naked puts to turbocharge his gains. Citron (Andrew) is often featured on CNBC and this is his normal style. He shorted NVDA, it fell 10%, he cashed out, he has recently revealed a sizable short in Wayfair furniture that is seemingly crushing him as it continues higher. Yet he is sticking to his Wayfair short theory. He is famous for his fraud call on Valeant. Kind of funny, he was also very critical of Mobileye and called them a joke in the autonomous vehicle market and recommended NVDA instead. Unfortunately for Andrew, Intel bought Mobileye a week or so later at a huge premium and crushed his short thesis. He lost a ton on that one.

I was also stunned he used the term "fraud" to describe his firms short thesis on Ubiquiti. I have never heard anyone speak negatively of Ubiquiti. Their products solved unique problems and while we don't market Ubiquiti, I feel like they are a good company with good intentions. Citron could have used more professional language. At this point, it does seem harsh and unfair to Ubiquiti.

 

Someone should turn this guy Andrew Left on to Knightscope

That's funny but you can't short sell Knightscope stock until they go public (lol).

Netgear, Cisco, and Google.

 

Where does one obtain a Google switch? 

 

Joking aside, I know they built their own servers back in the day, and I wouldn't be surprised if they built their own switch gear, but this guy lumping Google next to Cisco demonstrates his expertise perhaps?

#3, I suspect he means the Google home WiFi unit, again wrongly assuming Ubiquiti is primarily a consumer provider.

I will say Im amazed that Ubiquiti is so popular given they have no sales team and mostly really on community support forums for tech support. Seems like every tech business owners dream to have such a business model. 

To expand on that, I think that's why Ubiquiti is more vulnerable to low cost Chinese competition than to Cisco, Netgear, etc.

Look at Ubiquiti in surveillance. Their products are around the same price as Dahua and Hikvision but Dahua and Hikvision include lots of sales, marketing and tech support - which is a big disadvantage for Ubiquiti and a major factor in choosing their Chinese rivals.

I was skeptical of using their products at first. It’s almost all we use now. In the last year we’ve sold a lot of it and haven’t needed support for technical or warranty. The stuff just seems to work. It would be nice to have a sales guy come in and talk to use because I’m sure we’re not using their products to their full portential but it’s not like Cisco is stopping by either. 

I'm in the same boat. I find their support forums with how-to's to be a bit too technical at times but the GUI has come a long way in the past 5 years to a point where I rarely need any support. I keep telling my customers it just works and keeps working. I can't even remember the last time I had to reset an EdgeRouter due to it stopped working.

It does work but there are stupid quirks you have to deal with.  We just completed a 10 switch UNIFI network with their 10GB fiber 16 port switch and a mix of 48/24 and 16 port switches.  To get edge switches to connect to the CORE switches you have to manually configure the SFP ports either 1GB or 10GB.  If you leave them in the auto-negotiate mode they will not connect.  So this can be annoying if you go to the IDF to install the switch to find out it will not connect via fiber and then you have to take the switch to other IDF just to patch it in via copper so you can get the switch to see the controller to make the change.   

True. This has been the case with many of the current settings now that were added in with firmware updates. While they aren't as fast with the updates as most would like, I think that when enough people complain about these quirks on their forums they eventually get fixed which is nice. I can remember a long time ago when many settings were only accessible via shell but are now easily configured in the GUI. 

Yes, I agree.  The 16 port 10GB has a lot of complaints able connecting to other NICs but it looks like they are slowly starting to address them.   They also need to add more features to the UNIFI firewall and they need a layer 3 switch.  

Most acute need is for unified threat management.  Until then we can't replace all our Sonicwalls.

Ok, I'm convinced, the Citron report on $UBNT is a total FRAUD.

It's interesting to me that in the research Citron did, they don't mention product pricing and how that plays/played a big role in UBNT appeal.

The company is not really a tech innovator, they commoditize existing tech.

In my time as an integrator, I remember one could buy a $2000+ radio from Cisco or a $200 UBNT device that satisfied the same core functions well.

 

The only real issue I have with Ubiquiti is there lack of tech support and their training is ridiculously expensive. Through real pains we found if we buy these through Scansource then they will help design and offer support and training as well.

 

Buy Ubiquiti antennas they are a fine product, even if you hate Hikvision (which if you know me you know my stand there) those folks have stood behind several problems systems we have encountered in our Tower maintenance and Cellular communications division where other way, way, more expensive antennas never worked right and Ubiquiti worked from day one and still does.

We use the UBNT wifi bridges quite a bit with our IP camera systems as many of our jobs are in agricultural applications... need to link to the outbuildings.  Found them to be very reliable and relatively inexpensive.

UBNT fills a void with pricing. No one is claiming the technology is unique, it's just attainable.

 

If they wouldn't have, someone else would have eventually

This guy is the mayor of clowntown.  He literally has no idea who Ubiquiti's customer base is. Their products are solid and we have been using them for a couple of years now.  There were some challenges, but nothing that we haven't had with other manufacturers.  Given the choice between a slick, intuitive, and cost effective product OR a highly paid C-Suite and sales force bombarding me with calls and emails, it's a no-brainer.   

Clowns is literally a compliment. The guy has not even basic understanding of either financial, corporate growth or technology. Not even sure why he's getting this much of attention.

Ubiquiti, simply sell enterprises level networking at consumer pricing. Simple as that.

In addition they have zero technical support except monitoring their forums. This means, unless you know what you are doing, you are out in the ocean on your own. Granted, the forums are very active and responsive.

This business model allowed Ubiquiti to penetrate the market aggressively and put some serious concerns with their competition

That being said, there isn't much of margins for dealers but that's a different discussion.

Not even sure why he's getting this much of attention.

Beyond this event, I do not know Citron Research, but he is evidently well known enough that the NY Times wrote a long article about him earlier this year - The Bounty Hunter of Wall Street Andrew Left sniffs out corporate fraud — and gets rich doing it.

Related, the stock did drop the day he announced but has already partially climbed back:

My guess is that enough investors were spooked that initially it caused a modest sell-off but once people had enough time to analyze it, overall investors determined that the case was weak.

As a company we replaced our entire internal infrastructure with Ubiquity Switches and Wifi products. In the 22 years I have worked here we have never had a more stable environment!! It is extremely easy to configure.

We have also installed the Ubiquity products in many customer sites; using their switches, wifi, and especially their PtP and PtMP products. Again, these sites have been extremely stable. No other wireless/network company seems to compare to their product line in what they offer: stability, usability, and PRICE POINT!!! There price points are so competitive it is hard to go with anyone else. I'm usually not the type of person that is this much of a "fan" of a product or company, but it is hard not to be from a Business perspective and the solutions that they have provided.

This is a common tactic with research firms. They do some research, hit the high points about the company, then claim a smoking gun with FRAUD in big letters to bolster their short position.

Sometimes it is wildly successful, especially if their fraud claims coincide with an unimpressive or bad quarter in terms of performance relative to market expectations.

This is way, way more airtime than these goons deserve. The more publicity they get, the more likely their trolling scheme ends up working.

I don't trust anyone who stitches their initials on the FRONT of their shirt!

LOL.  Not sure I understand this, but I laughed regardless.

 

 

I get that, but don't really understand how that translates to being untrustworthy.

My grandfather wore initialed up old-man coveralls for years, and he'd go to fist city with anyone calling him a liar!  :)

That's a man cut from a different cloth altogether!

How do you know the shirt is yours with out initials though? :)

Update: Citron research has released an update with 10 questions that are much more focused on real potential issues:

Again, we cannot attempt to answer the cash flow questions but, at least, these questions are more relevant to potential fraudulent activities than basketball and Jim Cramer criticisms.

Interestingly, UBNT stock is back to ~$55 which was were it was before Citron's report, so far then UBNT has whethered these allegations well.

"these questions are more relevant to potential fraudulent activities than the basketball and Jim Cramer criticisms"

agreed.

so why did Mr. Left lead with the weak stuff?

Because it works: Ubiquity Stock Prices went down and Mr. Left and/or his friends capitalized on shorting the stock to make a buck. It wasn't until IPVM took their original analysis to task that they had to do their job and provide a real analysis. Even this analysis doesn't indicate that any type of fraud is or has taken place.

"Because it works: Ubiquity Stock Prices went down and Mr. Left and/or his friends capitalized on shorting the stock to make a buck."

Define works.

I understand the conceptual part of how the shorting scheme works, and if Mr. Left was going to make the alarmist claims that he did, you'd think that leading with the good stuff (questions) instead of the weak stuff (Kramer/Grizzlies) would have dropped the price more (maybe) vs the moderate dip (since recovered) the price actually did take after he published his possible fraud post.

 

It wasn't until IPVM took their original analysis to task that they had to do their job and provide a real analysis. 

I don't think IPVM has that type of influence in that space. I do think a number of experienced people were making similar criticisms to what we made here.

Interestingly, UBNT stock is back to ~$55 which was were it was before Citron's report, so far then UBNT has whethered these allegations well.

Citron shorts and then makes a few bucks covering.  Long term UBNT holders are ok.

Day-traders and those easily fooled foot the bill.

I can live with that :)

Ubiquiti seemed to suffer from some serious quality control issues several years ago that made us switch to Deliberant/Ligowave and we've been with them ever since. Same price and we get actual tech support. But I respect Ubnt and I'm sure they've overcome whatever issues they had or they wouldn't still have the same following that they do today.

As for not getting a "high five" endorsement from Cramer....

Cramer "Bear Stearns is fine! Do not take your money out [of Bear Stearns]!... That's just being silly!"

I think not getting and endorsement from Jim Cramer could be a good thing (in the contrarian way).

I watched the 3 hour webcast with investment analysts today.  It had previously been scheduled prior to the Citron report.  After a few technical snafus at the beginning, it consisted of Pera alone giving about an hour powerpoint on his vision and unique business model, and then fielding questions for about 2 hours.  The stock dropped almost 3 bucks at the early part of his conference and then recovered half of it and  leveled out. Most of the questions were surprisingly soft.  No hostility or accusatory tones from the questioners.  He seems at peace that the market will give them what it will.  If it trades the stock down, then he'll buy stock back.   His corporate governance is based on simplicity and cost savings.  He has the minimum amount of board members legally required because he doesn't think they really accomplish much.

One side note that I think you'll find interesting is when an analyst asked him about security cameras.  He spent a lengthy amount of time on the subject and seemed to really know what he was talking about in the details.  Said nothing had frustrated him more than video security.  He says he saw the vision back around 2007 and wanted to be a big player.  He mentioned the market then was Pelco, Sony, Milestone, and to some degree emerging Axis, which were solid but expensive.  Said they just didn't execute correctly.  Decided to focus the software on some open source, Zoneminder, and it didn't work as planned.  Eventually revamped the software, but the market had been somewhat dominated by HIK and Dahua.  They arrived to where he had hoped to.  Still sold about a million cameras, a tribute to the brand identity.  Thinks there might be some potential in an enhanced user experience, which I took to mean software, but likely not a huge focus going forward.  

#8, thanks! Good writeup, interesting thoughts.

1 million cameras is believable, say $100 a piece, that is $100 million in revenue since ~2012, that sounds reasonable to me, still a smaller business for them and small for the industry.

Btw, for others, here is the link to listen to the call (minimal registration required).

If you want to hear his comments on video linked above, it's at the 1:24:20 mark.  Audio is very poor, so you'll probably need to turn your speakers to full volume.

 

 

What piqued my interest from the initial report was always the potential financial engineering, not the validity of the products.

 

Update: Ubiquiti's stock is now back over what it was before Citron Research accused them of being fraudulent.

Now, Citron has moved onto Shopify, video below:

Final update: Ubiquiti's stock is now ~16% higher / ~$9 more than the day before this short seller published.

Michael, thanks for updating. Ubiquiti's stock dropped ~27% yesterday though it's up a little today:

As I mentioned in the original post, I can't tell if Ubiquiti has financial irregularities but Citron's public case was poor.

I do wonder how much of the publicity Citron brought impacted the SEC to pursue Ubiquiti.

Ubiquiti said that the SEC asked for "documents and information relating to a range of topics, including metrics relating to the Ubiquiti Community, accounting practices, financial information, auditors, international trade practices, and relationships with distributors and various other third parties." The company said it plans to "cooperate fully" with the requests.

This is going to be interesting to watch. 

Not saying there is nothing there as there may be, but those are pretty standard requests. The SEC obviously has some basis for the request, but it doesn't necessarily mean that there is some conspiracy.

I will be watching with interest though. I don't use their products professionally, but I have a house full of their products personally!

Maybe this guy was on to something.

Maybe, but even if he was, did he have the stomach to hold his short positions till now while the stock was on the uptick?

I’ve been trying to find more info on the subpoenas, with no luck.  I look at this as a great opportunity to buy some more shares, but I might be an idiot.  I can see how people would assume that there is something afoul when a company can consistently show increasing sales without having a sales team, that doesn’t make any sense unless you are a customer of theirs and understand how they operate.

Matt, the only SEC filing I have found so far is from UBNT and is just literally 1 paragraph (here). I could be wrong but I don't expect much details to come until the SEC releases findings.

John, that's info that I found... which is very vague.  It seems absurd that a company can lose 25% of its value simply because someone wants to talk to them on the record.  I guess people are of the mindset of "where there is smoke, there is fire" As UI#8 mentioned below, Wells Fargo upped their credit facility in 2017 (can't find reference to the 500M he/she stated).  I would think some DD or audited financials would have to be involved in that.

I think they have a fantastic business product line and are really changing the market both with cost and ease of use.  Anyone else ever pull their hair out trying to figure out an HP or Cisco data sheet?

NOTICE: This comment has been moved to its own discussion: Absurd That Ubiquiti UBNT Lost 25% Of Their Value On SEC Subpoena Announcement

2 thoughts, and I'm very pro Ubiquiti.  

1.a Not alleging some sort of conspiracy, but it is curious that these items requested by the SEC almost mirror exactly the main bullet points of Left's hit piece.  User community size, distributor relationships, etc.  

1.b  A very large poison pill drop dead date is imminent (end of this month, I think) on the buy/sell of the Memphis Grizzlies NBA team. This will personally affect the CEO as he will either sell his majority interest, or have to by the other largest 2 shareholders.  The price of NBA teams have skyrocketed in the last 12 months.  Could this be a timing coincidence to negatively affect Pera in some form or fashion?

2. There is always concerns when the SEC is issuing subpoenas, so tread cautiously.  I do think UBNT over inflated their user community numbers, but that's not really financially material.  Even less so than Facebook or Twitter who make money depending on the size of their communities and were discovered to have tons of fake bot accounts.

And finally, FWIW, Wells Fargo just upped their credit extension to UBNT (since the Left hit piece) to $500 million.  I would think that WF did their due diligence.  UBNT doesn't appear to need cash, it has never issued a secondary, it has bought a great deal of stock back, and continues post profits.  If this were a scam, one would think they would have run out of cash at some point long ago.  

Owning UBNT stock for the long haul is not for the feint of heart...

Good luck to all  :)

Well I'm pro Mikrotik, so it's natural for me to hate on Ubiquiti most of the time.

But this time I almost totally agree with #8

The difference is I will definitely allege some sort of conspiracy. Just the standard pump and dump or whatever you want to call it. And I could care less what happens to UBNT stock. 

The only thing Citron exposed was they have some inside connects with the SEC. And the SEC has some crooked representatives making mountains of side money at the average investors loss.

Since when does the SEC care about the "Community"?

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