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Kior Declines After Downgrade on First-Quarter Biofuel Halt

Kior Inc., operator of the first U.S. commercial-scale cellulosic biofuel plant, fell after it was downgraded by Raymond James & Associates Inc. on concern over production.

Kior declined 4.9 percent to $1.57 at the close in New York.

The company shut down its plant in Columbus, Mississippi, in the fourth quarter to adjust the manufacturing process, and doesn’t plan to resume commercial operations this quarter, Chief Executive Officer Fred Cannon said during a conference call yesterday.

Kior has lost 90 percent of its market value since its June 2011 initial public offering at $15, and investors are becoming impatient for the company to begin selling its cellulosic biofuel in high volume, Pavel Molchanov, a Raymond James analyst in Houston, said in a report today.

“Inconsistent execution and lack of operational visibility have become a major source of frustration for investors,” he said in the report. Not only will the plant be out of operation this quarter, “management provided slim detail for the rest of the year: no production guidance of any kind, even in general terms.” Molchanov downgraded the Pasadena, Texas-based company to the equivalent of hold.

Kior in October received $100 million from Khosla Ventures LLC and Gates Ventures LLC to expand production at the Columbus plant. The company makes transportation fuels from wood waste and non-food crops.

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