Solazyme Adds (More) Precision to Tailored Oil Platform

Synthetic biology company and renewable oils manufacturer Solazyme (NASDAQ: TVIA  ) reported earnings after the market closed on Wednesday. Investors worried about a quiet start to the year were reminded that the company remains occupied preparing its three commercial-scale facilities for operations and developing oil profiles. The waiting game isn't quite over for investors, but management announced one major event that should keep investors happy. Here is a recap of recent developments at Solazyme.

As a developmental stage company with few revenue streams, Solazyme doesn't give investors much to look for in traditional financials. The operating results compared to the year-ago period are displayed below nonetheless.




% Change

Total Revenue

$6.68 million

$13.56 million


Product Revenue

$4.00 million

$3.996 million


Cost of Product

$1.45 million

$1.25 million


Total Costs

$30.03 million

$30.66 million


Net Loss

$26.53 million

$16.78 million


Source: Solazyme

More important is the fact that cash on hand grew 60% to $239 million after a successful debt note offering shortly after the beginning of the year. Meanwhile, shareholders' equity fell 10% to $164 million compared to the fourth quarter of 2012. The company's strong financial health equates to the "no news is good news" mantra for investors.

Partnership outlook
Solazyme announced a sales agreement with AkzoNobel, a global paints and coatings company, as the first concrete off-take agreement for oils originating from the biorefinery in Moema, Brazil. The agreement will send bulk quantities of oils to AkzoNobel in 2014, with the companies beginning to develop oils for the agreement in the second half of 2013. It is important for investors to remember that the Moema facility will be operating at a restricted capacity until at least 2015, as it generally takes 12-18 months to ramp up to nameplate capacity.

Investors will be on the lookout for further, perhaps larger, customer announcements in the coming quarters. Just remember that there is plenty of time between now and mid-2015. Until then, there should be no worries from the guidance and commercialization aid Solazyme will receive from agri-giants Bunge (NYSE: BG  ) and Archer Daniels Midland (NYSE: ADM  ) .

Product commercialization outlook
The biggest announcement from Solazyme during the earnings call was the development of a new oil-tailoring capability. Below you will see a series of pictures showing a triglyceride oil, which is a glycerol backbone (grey) and three fatty acid chains (black). Controlling the structure of a triglyceride oil gives Solazyme unparalleled capabilities in biomanufacturing. For instance, the company already had the ability to control chain length of oils, which yields the highest value fatty acids.

Source: Solazyme

Additionally, Solazyme already had the ability to control saturation along the fatty acid chain, which is noted by the double line (a double bonded carbon) in the picture below. This affects the functionality and specifications of tailored oils.

Source: Solazyme

Now, the company has developed the ability to control the positioning of functional groups along the fatty acid chain.

Source: Solazyme

Why does this new development matter? Solazyme can now eliminate trans fats in its nutritional oils, retain texture of oils without hydrogenation, and control the functionality of oils with even greater precision. Positioning does not necessarily apply to all oils in the company's portfolio, but it will open up a new frontier for what is possible with Solazyme's platform. This is definitely an awesome development for investors, even if it is in the early stages.

In other news, each of the three commercial biorefineries under construction remains on track.


Nameplate Capacity


Product By...

Peoria (product development)

8,000 metric tons


(test quantities)

Solazyme Roquette Nutritionals

5,000 metric tons

June 2013


Solazyme Bunge

100,000 metric tons




20,000 metric tons

Early 2014

Early 2014

Source: Solazyme

The following updates were also provided by management:

  • The Algenist product portfolio launched two new products and expanded into Turkey. Further expansion is expected into Mexico and Asia soon, with sales predicted to pick up in the second quarter.
  • Levels of myristic acid, one of the highest-value oils targeted by the company with partner Mitsui, reached levels of 60% in the company's myristic oil profile. That is 400% greater than levels found in coconut oil, the traditional source of myristic acid.

Foolish bottom line
There is much work to be done to de-risk Solazyme's technology. However, the company's strong financial position and commitment to execution could bolster the argument for an investment. Solazyme had a quiet quarter, but made progress where it counts. The company remains on track with commercial progress on the construction side and product development side. Investors should not rock the boat one way or the other from an investment strategy perspective -- just stick to your plan. 

Be on the lookout for continued Solazyme coverage from The Motley Fool in the next few weeks. In the meantime, The Motley Fool's chief investment officer has selected his No. 1 stock for the next year. Find out which stock it is in the brand-new free report: "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2013." Just click here to access the report and find out the name of this under-the-radar company.

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On May 09, 2013, at 10:39 AM, EmFetch267 wrote:

    Your peoria location capacity is wrong. Its 1800. Glad youre starting to understand the story here.

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Maxx Chatsko

Maxx has been a contributor to since 2013 focusing on renewable energy, renewable fuels, agriculture, and engineered biology. He graduated from SUNY-ESF (2012) with a Bachelor of Science in Bioprocess Engineering and from Carnegie Mellon University (2016) with a Master of Science in Materials Science & Engineering.

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