For El Segundo bioresin maker Cereplast Inc., the last few months have been a near-death experience. Due to the Eurozone crisis, two distributors failed to pay Cereplast $8.6 million for their clients’ orders. It was a huge blow to a company with only $20 million in revenue last year.
But last week, Cereplast, which makes plasticlike resin from plant material, appeared to find a savior – from India. The company reached an agreement with Singularis Solutions Pvt. Ltd. of Bangalore to take the resins off the European distributors’ hands and sell them to 15 companies in India. More importantly, Singularis promised to provide a letter of credit to Cereplast by May 30, repaying the $8.6 million.
Long-suffering investors greeted the news joyously, sending Cereplast shares up 18 percent to 58 cents last Monday.
But less than 48 hours later, shares gave up all this gain as Cereplast released first quarter earnings, and investors and analysts got their first look at just how bad the damage was from the billing fiasco.
Cereplast, whose resins are used to make a kind of new-age plastic that’s biodegradable, essentially had stopped production at its manufacturing plant in Seymour, Ind. It also ceased product sales during the first quarter, focusing all its energy on working out a deal to get its accounts receivable paid. Revenue plunged 98 percent to a mere $103,000, resulting in a net loss of $2.4 million.
“It’s pretty evident from these results here that you have shut down,” said Steven Hart, an analyst from Forefront Capital Management LLC in New York during the company’s earnings conference call. “You are really not producing anything in Indiana.”
Frederic Scheer, Cereplast’s chief executive, told the Business Journal last week that he hopes the company will get back on track during the second half of the year.
“I’m disappointed that we’ve spent the last six months chasing receivables instead of growing our business,” he said. “We’re hopeful we can completely resolve the accounts receivable situation by midyear and focus in the second half of the year on growth.”
Scheer said the problems began last summer when credit froze throughout much of Europe due to the debt crisis. Cereplast earlier in the year signed deals with two major distributors – one in Germany and one in Italy – and had delivered 4,000 tons of its plant-based resins – worth $8.6 million – to those two distributors, which he declined to name.
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