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TerraVia in the Wilderness Years
by Jim Lane (Biofuels Digest) ... Algae Butter can reduce saturated fat by up to 50 percent in most applications.
While butter doesn’t exactly rival gasoline as a market — it’s pretty substantial, when you get down to it. The global market is something like $4.4 billion – a demand of around 10 million tons and a price point around $4400 per ton. Giving TerraVia a shot at $2.2B of that — and at a price point that dwarfs some of the company’s targets from its Solazyme days — the world of $360 per ton crude petroleum, for example.
“We make oils” said the prospectus for the old Solazyme when it completed its celebrated IPO five years ago, pledging to transform the market for oils through the power of algae to make them. The company has subsequently ratcheted its focus down to speciality ingredients and nutrition — but that’s been typical of almost every algae-based venture, most of which long abandoned the fuels and big chemicals markets in a search for price points that were more reachable in the near-term.
It’s been rough going for TerraVia in recent weeks.
The company announced a painful round of layoffs — 25 percent of the company’s workforce, which had already been substantially reduced in the past two years. And the company suspended operations at its Peoria, Illinois demonstration-scale facility, and said it was seeking “strategic opportunities to partner its AlgaVia® line of products” — which of course could range from a joint venture to an outright sale of the brands (while retaining perhaps a manufacturing contract).
The company reported Q4 revenues of $4.8M and $18.5M for 2016 as a whole, compared to $5.4M and $22.9M for the comparable periods in 2015. Losses for the quarter reached $27.1M and $101.6M — sharply narrowed from a loss of $34.7M in Q4 2015 and $141.4M for 2015 as a whole.
But the momentum the company is detailing in releases is not yet translating into financial results — that’s for sure. The good news? The results were in line with the painful corporate guidance in the Q3 call with investors and analysts. The bad news? The company’s auditors inserted a “going concern” notice into the company’s 2016 annual report.
They never tell you that after the Valley of Death comes the Wilderness, and TerraVia has entered its Wilderness Years. Moses emerged from a similar ordeal with a renewed vision which propelled him into eternal fame — between then and now, many companies and individuals have been so tested and now it is the turn of TerraVia. READ MORE