Lumera Tries to Shine

In a company's evolution from start-up to commercialization to public company, the last stage is, in theory at least, the final leg that propels it into the mainstream. After all, when Lumera (Nasdaq: LMRA  ) went public in July, and as a genuine nanotechnology company to boot, the company raised nearly $40 million to give it a much-needed cash boost and smooth the road to commercial glory.

Lumera is a halfway house that promises a lot and so far has not delivered. It takes nano materials developed by the University of Washington and commercially develops them before finally offering them to a market.

Unfortunately, no one asked the market whether it needed the products Lumera is developing. So the company's promised first product, a wireless antenna, has now been dropped. Management apparently failed to calculate the correct market size and, with a decidedly small sales force, was unable to interest potential distributors.

In its third-quarter report and subsequent conference call, Lumera reported revenues down from $676,000 to $292,000 because of a government contract not being renewed. So with no new revenues from wireless antennas and the loss of its main revenue driver of last year, the company's employees shouldn't be looking for a particularly lavish holiday party this year. Lumera's lights are dimming.

As if that weren't enough, the company reported R&D expenses down over the past nine months (and remember, this is a developmental company) but SGA up from $889,000 to more than $3 million, primarily because of, in the words of the Lumera's press release, "non-cash stock-based compensation costs associated with stock options granted with exercise prices below the fair value of the common stock at the date of issue, additional executive head count, and the costs of being a public company." All leading to an operating loss of more than $5 million for the nine months ending Sept. 30.

But before we switch the lights off completely, there are signs of life: A new "Smart" antenna is reportedly better than the previous one; some bioscience products are developing in areas the company is already talking partnerships; and a promised "paradigm shift" in cost and performance for its polymer development work to produce ultra-thin films for optical interconnectors, routers, and hubs.

Although its previous parent Microvision (Nasdaq: MVIS  ) remains a majority shareholder, Lumera has also attracted financial backing from Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO  ) and Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) .

At a current price of $8.05 giving a price to sales of more than 450, Lumera looks expensive. As a company looking to light up the stadium, it's struggling to light up even the closet right now.

Until Lumera gets some actual partnerships signed or products shipped, there is little to move the price forward from its current levels. Once we see some meaningful commercial activity, we'll take a look.

There is some potential here, and it has captured the interest of some big players. But the commercial arena is littered with companies with great technologies that failed to find a market.

If you're looking for the next growth company in groundbreaking industries such as nanotech, try our ultimate growth service,Motley Fool Rule Breakers.

Do you have high hopes for the nanotechnology sector? Share your views with Carl (TMFBreakerCarl) and John (TMFBreakerJohn) in the Nanotechnology discussion board.

Carl Wherrett doesn't own any shares of the companies mentioned. John Yelovich owns shares of Cisco. You can reach them both by email.The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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