Synthesis Energy: Hype or Reality Check?

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Synthesis Energy Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: SYMX) shares were among the Friday’s biggest percentage gainers, all because it has a deal to become a leader in the clean coal gasification market in China.

The question is whether the deal really means much other than speculators in low-priced shares pushing the stock up.

The Houston company will partner with Zhangjiagang Chemical Machinery to form a joint venture called ZCM-SES Sino-U.S. Clean Energy Technologies.

ZCM will contribute approximately $16.5 million to the venture for a 65% ownership interest, while Synthesis Energy will contribute exclusive usage of its advanced, proprietary gasification technology in Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, the Philippines and Vietnam for a 35% ownership interest.

The cash may be the most important part of the deal, as far as Synthesis Energy is concerned. It has had a rocky history. It had operated a commercial scale coal gasification plant in the Shandong Province of China, but the plant was shut down.

It has never turned a profit trying to get its coal-gasification business fired up. In its 2013 fiscal year, which ended in June, it lost $19 million on revenue of just $579,000. The revenue was down from $3.1 million in 2012 and $10.2 million in 2011. It lost $19.9 million in 2012 and $15.5 million the previous year.

The shares were up $0.67 to $2.10 in mid-day trading, after earlier reaching a 52-week high of $2.49.

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