By Marie Daghlian
Renewable fuels and chemicals developer Gevo (GEVO) completed a $107 million initial public offering, pricing its shares at the high end of its target range of $13 to 15. The Englewood, Colorado-based company uses a combination of synthetic biology and chemical technology to produce isobutanol from biomass, which can then be converted into fuels and chemicals that can be used in a variety of products, including gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels, and plastics, fibers, rubber, and other polymers.
Gevo sold 7.15 million shares at $15 per share, and has a market cap of almost $500 million after the offering. It began trading on the Nasdaq capital market under the symbol GEVO. UBS Investment Bank, Piper Jaffray, and Citi were underwriters for the offering.
Although Gevo has yet to generate any revenues, it is retrofitting a recently acquired 22 million gallon-per-year ethanol production facility in Minnesota and plans to begin commercial production of isobutanol in 2012.
Gevo’s isobutanol-based products will be “drop-in”—directly substitutable for petroleum-derived raw materials. In its filing, Gevo says it believes the potential global market for isobutanol, as a petroleum substitute for fuels, petrochemicals, and specialty chemicals, is more than 1 trillion gallons per year. Its plan is to retrofit existing ethanol facilities with its technology to produce isobutanol.
Gevo says it is in negotiations on the final terms of definitive agreements and partnerships with companies that include Lanxess, a leading chemicals company, French oil giant Total (TOT), Japan’s Toray Industries, a leading developer of fibers, plastics and chemicals, United Air Lines, and CDTech, a leading hydrocarbon technology provider for the petrochemical and refining industry.
Gevo was founded by cleantech investor Vinod Khosla, whose firm owns 38 percent of the company, according to its SEC filing. Other principal investors include Richard Branson’s Virgin Green Fund, strategic investors Total and Lanxess, and the Malaysian Life Sciences Capital Fund. Burrill & Company, publisher of The Burrill Report, is also a major investor in Gevo.
Total is also a major investor in Amyris (AMRS), Gevo’s competitor, which went public at the end of September 2010. Shares of Amyris are currently trading at $30.80, almost double its offer price of $16 per share. Amyris’ aftermarket performance likely helped Gevo among investors hoping its prospects are just as bright.