Avantium, a 2000 spin-off from Shell with technologies for converting plant sugars into biochemicals and polymers, says it will make an initial public offering of shares on two European stock exchanges by the end of March. The firm hopes to raise just over $100 million.
It is an unusual move. Biobased chemical companies have shied away from stock offerings in recent years because biomaterial prices have been suppressed by the low price of crude oil.
Avantium says it will invest up to $80 million of the money it raises in its Synvina joint venture with BASF. The venture plans a 50,000-metric-ton-per-year plant for 2,5-furandicarboxylic acid, a sugar-derived intermediate for recyclable polyesters such as polyethylene furanoate (PEF).
The facility will be located at BASF’s site in Antwerp, Belgium. BASF will put up the rest of the money for the plant, which is expected to cost up to about $300 million.
Construction of the plant will create global pull from big companies that are seeking biobased materials, Avantium says. The firm already has collaborations with Coca-Cola and Danone to develop PEF as a biobased alternative to polyethylene terephthalate in beverage bottles.
Most of the rest of the IPO proceeds will be used to build pilot plants for making ethylene glycol from glucose and generating high-purity glucose from non-food biomass.
Separately, Avantium has teamed up with AkzoNobel and other partners to develop a wood-to-chemicals biorefinery in the Netherlands.
UPDATE: This story was updated on Feb. 17, 2017, with a new estimate for the cost of the Synvina facility. It is expected to cost up to about $300 million, not up to $700 million.