We continue to believe Ecosynthetix (ECO.TO or US OTC: ECSNF) is VERY close to an inflection point for the commercial adoption of its DuraBind bio-adhesive for the wood panel market which consumes $Bs in adhesive per year. Their eco-friendly adhesive is intended to replace the industry standard which contains formaldehyde and has come under increasing critique for its health dangers, starting with regulations in California.
Yet investors are currently paying only a modest premium to ECO’s US $57M in net cash to participate in this long term growth opportunity. ECO is not a client of our investor relations consultancy, but we would love to represent them, and given the compelling nature of the story – this author established a position starting about a year ago (too early it now seems, but happy to be Long Term!)
These recent developments support our view:
1) July 27th the EPA finalized a rule to reduce exposure to formaldehyde vapors from certain wood products EPA Formaldehyde Rule Summary
2) Cannacord Genuity recently launched a Sustainability & Special Situations Watch List that highlighted Ecosynthetix – the report should help to expand awareness of this very compelling special situation. (To its credit, ECO has neglected its IR outreach – other than good quarterly update – in favor of focusing all resources on the one thing that really matters: commercialization, and therein lies the valuation discrepancy relative to its rapid potential revenue ramp).
3) Ecosynthetix reported excellent progress in its commercialization efforts, which involve industrial testing, in its Q2 reporting:
ECO is currently live with 10 customers, representing over 50 manufacturing lines. ECO estimates each line could account for US $500k – $3M in annual revenue. Further, to put this in perspective, there are more than 1,100 wood composite lines in the world. Canaccord estimates ECO’s current production capacity of 235M pounds per year as equating to approximately C$190M in revenue, or less than 2% of the total global adhesives market.
ECO’s longest trial has been proceeding over a year or more and accounts for 5 million square feet of produced and sold. One of the company’s customers started its process to be formaldehyde free two years ago and looked at 217 chemistries, eventually short-listing three solutions and performed industrial testing on their products and is currently evaluating only EcoSynthetix. ECO stated on its Q2 call that 10M square feet of board have now been produced using its adhesive.
ECO is very active in raising awareness and driving adoption of its bio-based polymer. Its products are being evaluated by 7 of the top-15 global wood-based panel manufacturers, resin technology providers that provide the PMDI resin used in chip boards, furniture manufacturers as well as big box retailers. EcoSynthetix has indicated that it hopes these tests could lead to commercial orders in the near term.
ECO defines commercial success as running continuously on one line for 30 days. It has run continuously for one or two weeks (and produced 10M sq feet of panels for sale), but for various reasons (largely due to the logistics and processes learning curve involved in bringing a new adhesive into the production process) it has not yet hit its stated benchmark for commercial success but importantly there have been no issues that are not reasonably rectified – and the testing has enhanced ECO’s ability to bring new lines on line expediently.
4) Major retailers are also helping to lead the adoption trend, as both Ikea and Walmart have publicly announced plans to embrace No Added Formaldehyde (NAF) production for the wood products they offer.
5) Putting their money where their mouth is, CEO Jeff MacDonald recently bought 34,200 shares at C$1.65 on 8/24/16 and ECO’s chairman Paul Lucas bought 10k shares on Friday, 8/19/16 for C$1.72 View ECO Insider Activity Here
While it’s taken a year longer than I first expected for the adoption to transpire – in retrospect is was naive to think large companies would move so quickly, particularly during a period of very robust demand for their existing products – and no real impediment to selling those containing Formaldehyde other than in California. Trialling new adhesives takes time and disrupts production, which impacts the top and bottom line, so it’s understandable in a period of strong demand that the conversion process would get pushed out a bit.
From our dialogues with those focused on the ECO story – November/December are typically the slowest periods of production in the wood panel industry – where inventories are being worked down and the ability to convert lines to a new methodology is much less disruptive.
To be continued.