Biofuel firm Mascoma plans to raise up to $100M in IPO


Yet another Khosla Ventures-backed biofuel company has filed to go public. On Friday cellulosic ethanol company Mascoma filed an S-1, indicating it plans to raise a maximum of $100 million in an IPO. Six-year-old Mascoma has long been one of the more promising cellulosic ethanol startups and Lux Research recently went so far as to give Mascoma “top chef status” in a biofuel ranking report last year, citing Mascoma’s “strong financial support from investors,” and “potentially cost-cutting” process for breaking down cellulose and fermenting the sugar with a single microbe.

Like most cellulosic biofuel firms, the company isn’t profitable. For the full year of 2010, Mascoma generated revenues of $15.49 million, and had a net loss of $25.93 million. For the first six months of 2011, Mascoma generated revenues of $6.67 million, with a net loss of $14.54 million.

However, like most other cellulosic ethanol companies, Mascoma has long delayed building its first commercial plant. Mascoma’s commercial-scale ethanol plant in Kinross, Mich was originally planned to begin construction sometime in 2009, with cellulosic ethanol production starting perhaps by 2011. Now, according to the release back in January, the facility will break ground in 2011. Pretty much every cellulosic ethanol company has had to delay commercial-scale production due to a variety of factors like the economy, and an inability to get the manufacturing costs low enough.

One of the reasons Mascoma seemed to get back on track this year was the backing of oil giant Valero. In January of this year Mascoma annnounced that Valero would spend $50 million on the construction of Mascoma’s Kinross plant and Valero also said it would potentially enter into an off-take agreement for the plant’s ethanol. In addition, Valero has made an equity investment into Mascoma.

Beyond Valero, Mascoma has raised close to $100 million from a long list of investors including Khosla Ventures, Flagship Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, VantagePoint, General Catalyst Partners, Atlas Venture, Pinnacle Ventures and car company General Motors. In addition to private funds, Mascoma has received numerous grants from the DOE totaling more than $30 million and also state grants from New York and Michigan of over $30 million.

Likely Mascoma will spend any funds raised on the public markets on its first commercial scale plant. Mascoma creates genetically-modified yeasts and bugs to convert plant waste into biofuels and biochemicals. The company now is looking to target selling its yeast to corn ethanol suppliers. Gevo, another Khosla-backed company, has taken a similar approach to sell to the corn ethanol market.

In recent months, biofuel and biochemical makers Amyris, Gevo, KiOR, and Solazyme have gone public.

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