What: Shares of renewable oils manufacturer Solazyme (NASDAQ:TVIA) experienced a volatile month of July, especially in its last few days. The company rolled to a 15% loss by July 28, before shooting up to recover all but 2.5% of the monthly loss on back-to-back announcements of supply agreements with United Parcel Service and BASF. Alas, Mr. Market didn't like the lack of details from the second-quarter earnings, and sent shares over 20% lower on the last day of the month. After all of that, Solazyme ended July down 25%.
So what: Investors are still waiting to see the company execute its new business strategy. In my opinion, they're being a little impatient, since Solazyme has maintained that production and revenue weren't expected to ramp up until the second half of 2015. It successfully achieved a modest gain in non-cosmetic product revenue in the second quarter over the first quarter of this year, and says it's on track with a plan to bring its flagship facility in Moema, Brazil, to higher production levels.
There was also some not-so-good news for shares in July aside from impatience. The company appears likely to miss its own top-line guidance for 2015. Reported production costs for non-cosmetic ingredients made no progress compared to the first quarter. And CEO Jonathan Wolfson confirmed my analysis that the market overreacted to the UPS renewable diesel supply deal. After rising 15% on the news on July 28, Wolfson told analysts that volumes would be more symbolic than material to near-term operations.
Additionally, the company's fastest-growing and only profitable brand, Algenist, is off to its worst first-half start in its short life. The skincare brand grew just 4.5% in the first half of 2015 compared to the prior-year period. Compare that to first-half growth of 23.4% in 2014 and 10.4% in 2013. Management said that the timing of a promotion in 2014 explains much of the discrepancy, and since a new promotion is currently under way, the growth should resume. I would continue to give management the benefit of the doubt concerning Algenist for at least one more quarter.
Now what: Investors need to realize that until Solazyme demonstrates that it can ramp sales and begin working its way down the cost curve, the stock price won't make sustainable movements. Consider it a highly volatile stock until further notice.
Maxx Chatsko has no position in any stocks mentioned. Check out his personal portfolio, CAPS page, previous writing for The Motley Fool, and follow him on Twitter to keep up with developments in the synthetic biology field.
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