Amyris shares ended the week at $3.23, up 18 cents for the week and up 64 cents from Tuesday’s all time low. But that’s still $30.62 below last year’s high of $33.85.
The trend at Amyris reflects a large pattern in the “green” energy sector so beloved of Barack Obama and his energy secretary and former head of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and BP’s BFF, thanks to that $500 million the former Anglo Iranian Oil Company is pouring into UC Berkeley, a deal Steve Chu helped land in his earlier incarnation here in Bedlam-by-the-Bay.
Amyris was hired by a former Chu employee, UC Berkeley “bioengineer” and serial entrepreneur Jay Keasling [he started one out before Amyris and is already onto his next, having apparently sold off his Amyris stock while prices were better].
Oh, and in addition to being on the State of California payroll as a Cal prof, Keasling’s also the head of the Department of Energy-funded Joint BioEnergy Institute, which is housed in the same building as Amyris.
The man sure does get around.
Oh, and the folks who bankrolled Amyris initially. It started with bucks from Bill Gates to tweak a microbe to produce a cheap drug [it ain’t cheap]. Then, when the company shifted into profit mode as a maker of plant based fuels created by genetically engineered microbes, the inital pile of cash came from the two venture capital outfits most heavily involved in “green tech” investments, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Khosla Ventures [remember those names].
Other venture capitalists followed, but the most cash came from French oil giant Total, and other funds have followed. The latest major player is a Qatari royal, former prime minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa Al Thani.
But it may prove harder for Keasling’s latest corporate creation, Lygos, to raise as much cash as Amyris did.
Writing for Forbes, Ucilia Wang calls the 2012 outlook for new initial public stock offerings in the green tech sector “rather bleak.”
She characterize the green tech startups as speculative plays, given that they’re venturing into new fields and begin existence on government life support.
There were fewer successful sector IPOs last year than the year before and they raised only about 60 percent of the capital of 2010, So far this year the downward trend continues.
Ten of the fourteen companies launched in the last quarter of 2011 were in China, and only one was in agrofuel, Ceres — which had real trouble raising cash.
Then she mentions a certain company of interest:
The story is similar for biofuel developers, some of whom have delayed building refineries because they ran into technical problems or were unable to raise enough money. Amyris, which went public in September 2010 at a lower offering price, said in February this year that it would no longer focus on the biofuel business and would instead target more lucrative markets such as cosmetics.
Rob Day, a partner at private equity firm Black Coral Capital, pointed out that many green tech companies were burning through cash quickly and had no profits to show for when they looked to go public to raise more money. Those who managed to complete an IPO – or tried to but couldn’t – were typically backed by big-name venture capitalists who told “visionary stories about what their companies could become,” Day said. The stocks of many public green tech companies have fallen, some quite dramatically, since their IPOs.
Many of green tech venture capitalists’ reputation as smart investors has taken a beating. Big green tech venture capital firms include Kleiner Perkins, Khosla Ventures, Madrone Capital Partners, RockPort Capital and VantagePoint Capital Partners.
“My guess is Wall Street is no longer willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the big-name VCs and back their companies because of who they are,” Day said.
Oh, and Kleiner Perkins? They’ve got a guy named Al Gore as a partner.