Biofuel Maker KiOR Posts All-Time Low on “Going Concern” Doubts

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Shares of KiOR Corp. (NASDAQ: KIOR) slipped to an all-time low of $0.60 a share Tuesday after it filed its annual report with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In that report the company said, “We have substantial doubts about our ability to continue as a going concern.” That kills a stock’s price every time.

KiOR came public in June of 2011 at $15 a share and topped out over $20 a share in late September. For most of last year, shares traded below $5, and since August shares have not risen above $3.

The company’s immediate problem is cash. Founder Vinod Khosla has committed $25 million in monthly amounts of no more than $5 million per month, but that is all the funding the company has been able to line up. Here is the problem in a nutshell, from the Form 10-K:

Because the Commitment [from Vinod Khosla] is subject to the negotiation and execution of definitive financing documents and the achievement of performance milestones, we cannot be certain as to the ultimate timing or terms of this investment. If we are unsuccessful in finalizing definitive documentation with Mr. Khosla on or before April 1, 2014, we will not have adequate liquidity to fund our operations and meet our obligations (including our debt payment obligations) and we do not expect other sources of financing to be available to us. This will likely cause us to default under our existing debt and we could be forced to seek relief under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code (or an involuntary petition for bankruptcy may be filed against us). In addition, any new financing will require the consent of our existing debt holders and may require the restructuring of our existing debt. If we successfully achieve our performance milestones that allow us to receive the full Commitment in the near term, we expect to be able to fund our operations and meet our obligations until August 31, 2014, but will need to raise additional funds to continue our operations beyond that date.

This sounds very much like the death rattle of alternative fuel company from which a lot was promised and not much was ever delivered. KiOR was one of several biofuel firms to come public in 2011. The others, including Solazyme Inc. (NASDAQ: SZYM) and Codexis Inc. (NASDAQ: CDXS), developed products other than motor fuel as it became clear that making advanced biofuels was not as easy as early investors thought it would be. KiOR focused on fuel and simply could not reach scale quickly enough.

Shares traded at around $0.67 in the noon hour Tuesday, after dropping to a new all-time low of $0.60. The 52-week high is $5.94.

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