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Genomatica files for IPO for making green chemicals

Green chemical developer Genomatica has filed for an IPO, planning to raise up to $100 million, according to a filing on Wednesday.  The company engineers processes to create chemicals from renewable sources that can be turned into a variety of products, from clothing to auto parts.

The IPO filing isn’t surprising considering the company’s chief executive, Christophe Schilling, has talked about turning to the public market to raise more money and biofuel makers have flocked to the public markets in the first half of 2011. The funding will likely go toward helping Genomatica reach commercialization of its technology.

According to the S-1 filing (often the first look at a company’s financials),  Genomatica hasn’t generated revenues from the sale of its chemicals. Instead, revenues have largely come from payments from joint development agreements, software licensing to research institutions and government grants, the company said. The company also hasn’t made a profit and recorded $14 million in net losses on $726,000 in revenues for 2010.

IPO market open?

Genomatica is planning to go public at a time when the economy still feels shaky. The stock market has swung widely in recent weeks, and the green IPO market even seemed to have slammed shut for a while. Investors have been hoping 2011 would be a strong year for cleantech exits — in particular, IPOs. Companies that received funding more than five to seven years ago are maturing, and the venture capitalists that invested in them are eager to get returns out.

The IPO window appeared wide open in the first half of 2011. Biofuel maker Gevo (s gevo) started trading in FebruaryZipcar (s zip) started trading in April, algae maker Solzayme (s szym) started trading in May; and biofuel company KiOR (s kior) started trading in June.

In addition, companies that have filed papers for IPOs (but not yet traded) include solar equipment developer Enphase Energy, smart grid tech company Silver Spring Networks, biodiesel producer Renewable Energy Group, and solar power plant developer BrightSource Energy. VentureWire reported that electric car company Fisker Automotive had also hired bankers to investigate the IPO process.

Greener chemicals

Genomatica engineers organisms that can turn sugar or synthesis gas into a variety of products, from chemicals for plastic to transportation fuels. The sugar or syngas can come from renewable sources such as plants and wood chips rather than crude oil or natural gas. Syngas also can be produced using trash, which accounts for why Waste Management decided to invest in Genomatica and a host of other startups.

Genomatic’s first product is 1,4-butanediol, or BDO, which is made from using sugar-eating E. coli. BDO can be used for making spandex, running shoes and plastic auto parts. The company began pilot production in Michigan last summer. Earlier this year, the company said it was able to demonstrate a larger-scale production of BDO in Illinois. The second product will be butadiene for making tires and latex products, the company said.

The San Diego company has raised $84.2 million in private equity since its inception in 1998, including a $45 million round announced in March of this year that came from investors including Waste Management(s wm), VantagePoint Venture Partners, Alloy Ventures and Draper Fisher Jurvetson.