Category Archives: Amyris, Inc.

Was the U.S. behind the Paraguayan coup?


That’s certainly a reasonable suspicion about the strange constitutional coup that two weeks ago overthrew President Fernando Lupo. And if that’s the case, the reason becomes abundantly clear in a story from Mexico City’s La Jornada via a translation at Aletho News:

A group of US generals reportedly visited Paraguay for a meeting with legislators on June 22 to discuss the possibility of building a military base in the Chaco region, which borders on Bolivia in western Paraguay. The meeting coincided with the Congress’s sudden impeachment the same day of left-leaning president Fernando Lugo, who at times has opposed a US military presence in the country. In 2009 Lugo cancelled maneuvers that the US Southern Command was planning to hold in Paraguay in 2010 as part of its “New Horizons” program.

More bases in the Chaco are “necessary,” rightwing deputy José López Chávez, who presides over the Chamber of Deputies’ Committee on Defense, said in a radio interview. Bolivia, governed by socialist president Evo Morales, “constitutes a threat for Paraguay, due to the arms race it’s developing,” according to López Chávez. Bolivia and Paraguay fought a war over the sparsely populated Chaco from 1932 to 1935, the last major war over territory in South America.

The US has been pushing recently to set up military bases in the Southern Cone, including one in Chile and one in Argentina’s northeastern Chaco province, which is close to the Paraguayan Chaco, although it doesn’t share a border with Paraguay [see Update #1129]. Unidentified military sources say that the US has already built infrastructure for its own troops in Paraguayan army installations near the country’s borders with Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil; for example, an installation in Mariscal Estigarribia, some 250 km from Bolivia, has a runway almost 3.8 km long, in a country with a very limited air force.

Now consider a 21 September 2009 SECRET/NOFORN diplomatic cable from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the American embassy in Asuncion, Paraguay referring to U.S. Special Forces training operation then underway in the country:

One year into office, President Lugo is confronted by the reality of governing with a fractured ruling coalition, an antagonistic Congress, and entrenched systemic corruption. Lugo has proven resilient, and thus far has weathered deliberate destabilization efforts that included a wave of small explosive devices and bomb threats in Asuncion. Nevertheless, rumors of coup-plotting persist along with a continual erosion of Lugo’s political capital. Given the current environment and the absence of written status protections for all DoD personnel in Paraguay, their presence poses a potential political risk. At any point, those who oppose Lugo or merely wish to weaken his ties to the United States may publicly raise the issue of U.S. forces in Paraguay and speculate about their role in a way that undercuts U.S. interests. In addition, there is a potential personal risk to U.S. forces on training missions in Paraguay without the benefit of status protections or equivalent.

Then consider this excerpt from another cable, a SECRET dispatch sent to Washington on 2 June 2008 by Deputy Chief of Mission Michael J. Fitzpatrick in Asuncion:

Sensitive reporting indicates that some members of Lugo’s inner circle have ties to representatives of Venezuelan President Chavez. These Lugo insiders claim that he supports Chavez’ plans for Latin America; Lugo has stated publicly and privately (to Embassy officials) that he will not align himself with Chavez. Lugo volunteered to OAS chief of electoral mission (and former Colombia Foreign Minister) Maria Emma Mejia early April 21 that while Chavez was the first president to congratulate him April 20, he does not know Chavez and was delighted that the U.S. Ambassador was in fact the first caller to congratulate him and to offer support for his government. One party in Lugo’s coalition, the P-MAS (Paraguayan Movement towards Socialism), receives Venezuelan financial support.

And here’s an excerpt from another cable, a SECRET/NOFORN 18 June 2007 dispatch from Ambassador Craig Kelly in Santiago, Chile:

Our growing economic relationship with the pragmatic leftist government in Uruguay puts the lie to the claim that greater trade and investment with the U.S. is tantamount to betrayal of local populations. This is critical because poor countries, like Uruguay, are vulnerable not so much to Chavez’s ideology but to his petrobolivars. We need to draw attention to and build on these success stories borne out of engagement with the U.S., as alternatives to Chavez’ vision of a region cut off from the U.S. Even Paraguay’s leftist priest-turned presidential candidate Fernando Lugo has stated he is closer to Bachelet or Lula than to Chavez.

Now let’s add another ingredient to the mix: Genetically modified soybeans peddled by American companies, as noted in an 18 June 2008 cable from Economics/Political Chief James Story at the U.S. Consulate in Sao Paulo: and titled U.S. SCIENTISTS VISIT BRAZIL FOR MOU ON BIOFUELS:

With peasant farmers threatening land invasions to demand land reform and end perceived environmental abuses, Paraguay’s soybean producers last month staged a two-day demonstration intended to call the government’s attention to rural turmoil. Hundreds of medium- and large-scale soy producers parked their tractors on Dec. 15 and 16 along the sides of the roads in 13 departments, creating a so-called “tractorazo”, underscoring the importance of peasant labor to agricultural production. The protest by soy producers comes after months of marches on Asuncisn and threats of land invasion by thousands of small and landless peasants, or campesinos, demanding agrarian reform and an end to the spraying of toxic agro-chemicals. Handling the tensions that fueled it marks a key test for President Fernando Lugo, a former Roman Catholic bishop who took office Aug.15.

Incidentally, the same cable also mention Amyris, the UC Berkeley-spawned and Bill Gates-enabled genetic engineering company that hopes to make a fortune off of using GM bugs to harvest fuel from plants.

A final bit of context

The so-called constitutional coup that led to Lugo’s ouster followed a bloody confrontation between peasants and police at the site of a massive agricultural plantation the peasants claimed had been illegally seized by a leading supporter of the opposition Colorado party.

So we’re getting the picture of a nominally leftist leader with uncomfortable relations with both an ambitious American military and the peasants’ demand for land reform and their deep dislike of American agribusiness and its monopoly on seeds.

Forgive us if we suspect some deep politics at work, favoring both the Pentagon and global corporations like Monsanto which provide the patented seeds to the latifundistas.

Congress torpedoes Navy, Pentagon agrofuel plans


Both houses have approved legislation that blocks the Navy from buying agrofuels — petroleum substitutes derived from plants, typically grown on industrial Third World plantations — unless they cost no more than conventional fuels.

Their action also bars the Pentagon from funding agrofuel refineries, a major blow to the Obama administration embrace of plant-based fuels, driven largely by Energy Secretary Steve Chu.

It was Chu who, during his tenure as head of the Alwrence Berkeley National Laboratory, played a leading role in winning UC Berkeley that $500 million BP agrofuel research grant and shifted research at the Department of Energy lab toward agrofuel research.

The Pentagon’s agrofuel efforts were initially shaped by Air Force Gen. Charles Wald, the same general also responsible for drafting plans for Africom, the Pentagon’s command for controlling the continent which has seen an ongoing wave of land acquisitions by agofuel corporations.

Just how important is the Pentagon’s agrofuel agenda? Swell, consider one simple fact: The world’s largest single consumer of oil is the U.S. military.

Oh, and the Pentagon’s biggest oil supplier? That would be BP.

The story from Noah Shachtman, writing at Wired’s Danger Room:

The Navy’s ambitious renewable energy plans aren’t sunk quite yet. But they took a major hit Thursday, when the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to all-but-ban the military from buying alternative fuels.

The House Armed Services Committee passed a similar measure earlier this month. But the House is controlled by Republicans, who are generally skeptical of alternative energy efforts. Democrats are in charge of the Senate Armed Services Committee. And if anything, the Senate’s alt-fuel prohibition goes even further than the House’s. If it becomes law, if would not only sink the Navy’s attempt to sail a “Great Green Fleet,” powered largely by biofuels. It would also sabotage a half-billion dollar program to shore up a tottering biofuels industry.

Like their counterparts in the House, senators prohibited the Pentagon from buying renewable fuels that are more expensive than traditional ones — a standard that biofuels many never meet. In addition, the committee blocked the Defense Department from helping build biofuel refineries unless “specifically authorized by law” – just as the Navy was set to pour $170 million into an effort with the Departments of Energy and Agriculture to do precisely that.

>snip<

Like their counterparts in the House, senators prohibited the Pentagon from buying renewable fuels that are more expensive than traditional ones — a standard that biofuels may never meet. In addition, the committee blocked the Defense Department from helping build biofuel refineries unless “specifically authorized by law” – just as the Navy was set to pour $170 million into an effort with the Departments of Energy and Agriculture to do precisely that.

Read the rest.

What might the impact of the Congressional action be?

Consider the case of Amyris, the local company started by Chu protégé and former employee Jay Keasling with the help of some Bill Gates money.

Amyris hopes to make synfuel with the help of genetically engineered microbes, but the diesel fuel they’ve churned out costs a whopping $29 a gallon, no sale under the pending legislation.

If the measure makes it into law, we can expect a major shakeup in the already rickety agrofuel industry.

Amyris, which has been struggling with low stock prices since peaking last year at $33.85, only to fall to $1.57 last week, has managed to make it back up to $2.65 as we write, slightly about the company’s liquidation price, if you don’t factor in that $150 million or more they’d have to pay their major investor if it all falls apart.

Amyris shares up again on investment news


Stock of the genetic engineering outfit started by UC Berkeley “genetic engineer” Jay Keasling with Bill Gates money have been edging up from their record low of 18 May.

When we reported Monday that “green” tech investment banker and Amyris board member John Doerr had bought more shares of Amyris, the SEC announcement of a second major buyer and two smaller ones who pocketed an equal value of shares hadn’t made it online.

But now the form is up, and the buyer of the same number of shares as Doerr [211,864 shares for $499,999] fellow Amyris board member Arthur D. Levinson, who chairs Genetech as well as Apple, where he replaced the Steve Jobs in November.

Smaller buys were made by two other board members, venture capitalist and former BP executive Ralph Alexander [21,186 shares, $49,999], and Google CFO and Senior Vice President Patrick Pichette [20,000 shares, $47,200].

A tagline on Seeking Alpha succinctly describes the reaction: A private placement is boosting shres [sic] of Amyris.

Stock rose on Monday’s news, and shares continued up today, closing at $2.36, up from the day’s opening of $2.12.

That’s up almost 80 cents from Friday’s all-time low, but there’s a way to go before it hits last year’s high. That would be $33.85.

Amyris shares bounce back a bit on stock sale


After dropping bad news after Friday’s market close, Amyris dropped some positive news today before market opening, sending the stock briefly up to $2, before dropping to $1.83 at market close.

Today’s close was 26 cents above the record low set Thursday.

The good news was that the company managed to sell $4.1 million worth of stock, presumably the same shares Fidelity agreed to buy in February, then declined to consummate earlier this month

The details from the company’s filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission:

On May 18, 2012, Amyris, Inc. (the “Company”) sold 1,736,100 shares of its common stock in a private placement to certain non-employee directors and related parties for aggregate gross proceeds of approximately $4.1 million (the “Placement”). The Placement was completed pursuant to a series of Common Stock Purchase Agreements, each dated May 18, 2012 (the “Purchase Agreements”), which the Company entered into with the following purchasers: Ralph Alexander, Foris Ventures, LLC (an entity affiliated with John Doerr), Arthur Levinson, Naxyris SA (an affiliate of NAXOS Capital Partners, of which Carole Piwnica serves as a director), and Patrick Pichette. The per share purchase and sale price for the shares of Common Stock purchased in the Private Placement was $2.36, the book value per share of the Company’s common stock, as determined in accordance with the corporate governance rules of The NASDAQ Stock Market.

Before the sale, Doerr, a partner at Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers [KPCB], controlling 3.7 million shares. A major player in so-called green tech investment, KPCB includes among its partners former Vice President Al Gore.

A record low closing for Amyris; loan problems?


Shares closed today at $1.59, the lowest end-of-market-day closing price ever and only two cents above the record low ever recorded during a trading day.

Amyris also dropped another end-of-the-day filing on the Securities and Exchange Commission, extending a bridge loan because anticipated funding from a Brazilian government development bank still hasn’t materialized.

Here’s the contents of the form 8-K filing:

This Current Report on Form 8-K is being filed by Amyris, Inc. (the “Company”) to disclose a further extension of the maturity date for the Banco Pine S.A. bridge loan disclosed in the Company’s Current Report on Form 8-K filed on December 28, 2011. As background, on December 22, 2011, effective December 21, 2011, Amyris Brasil Ltda. (“AB”), a Brazilian subsidiary of the Company, entered into a loan agreement with Banco Pine S.A. (the “Lender”) under which the Lender provided AB with a short term loan of R$35,000,000 (approximately US$17.5 million based on the exchange rate as of May 17, 2012) with a maturity date of February 17, 2012. The bridge loan was an advance on anticipated 2012 financing from Nossa Caixa Desenvolvimento, the Sao Paulo State development bank, and Lender, under which such banks may provide AB with loans of up to approximately R$52 million as financing for capital expenditures relating to the Company’s manufacturing facility at Paraíso Bioenergia S.A. in Brazil. On February 17, 2012, AB entered into a supplemental agreement to extend the maturity date for the bridge loan from February 17, 2012 to May 17, 2012.

On May 17, 2012, AB entered into a further supplemental agreement (the “Supplement”) with the Lender under which the parties agreed to extend the maturity date for the repayment of the loan from May 17, 2012 to August 15, 2012. Under the Supplement, in connection with the extension, AB is obligated to pay R$129,150 (approximately US$65,000 based on the exchange rate as of May 17, 2012) as tax on the financial transaction as required by Brazilian law.

Amyris plunges to yet another record low, $1.64


UPDATE III: Lowest-ever closing price of $1.58, a penny up for today’s all-time low.

UPDATE II: $1.57.

UPDATE: Make that $1.60.

The steady downward spiral continues for the stock of Amyris, launched by UC Berkeley bioengineer Jay Keasling with bucks from Bill Gates.

Shares of the Emeryville company traded at $33.85 fourteen months ago when its promises to produce cost effective mass quantities of fuels derived from plant fiber by genetically engineered microbes were much ballyhooed by the press and UC Berkeley praised the company as an archetype of the start-up enterprises the university would spawn to solve the world’s problems and revitalize the local economy.

But with the cost of diesel production at $29 a gallon and their Brazilian refinery plagued by contamination woes, the company has proven a nightmare for small investors who believed the hype.

Should the stock plunge below a dollar, the company could be yanked from the NASDAQ stock exchange. . .

Surprise, surprise: Amyris hits yet another new low


Just a penny less than yesterday’s new record low, with shares reaching $1.85 in early trading today.

That’s exactly $32 less per share than just 14 months ago. Not a good sign for the UC Berkeley-spawned genetic engineering company started with funds from Bill Gates.

UPDATE: Down more  to $1.80. If it drops below a dollar, the stock could lose is NASDAQ listing.

UPDATE II: That’s where it closed, after a drop to $1.79, the new record low.