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CERE > SEC Filings for CERE > Form 10-K on 26-Nov-2013All Recent SEC Filings

Show all filings for CERES, INC.

Form 10-K for CERES, INC.


Annual Report

Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

The following discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations should be read together with our Consolidated Financial Statements and the other financial information appearing elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. This Item 7 contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. Please see "Forward-Looking Statements" for a discussion of the uncertainties, risks and assumptions associated with these statements. The results of operations for the periods reflected herein are not necessarily indicative of results that may be expected for future periods, and our actual results may differ materially from those discussed in our forward-looking statements as a result of various factors, including but not limited to those listed under "Risk Factors" in Item 1A of this Annual Report on Form 10-K and those included elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.


We are an agricultural biotechnology company selling seeds to produce dedicated energy crops - renewable bioenergy feedstocks that can enable the large-scale replacement of petroleum and other fossil fuels. We use a combination of advanced plant breeding and biotechnology to develop seed products that we believe address the limitations of first-generation bioenergy feedstocks, such as corn and sugarcane, increase crop productivity, reduce crop inputs and improve cultivation on marginal land.

Our largest immediate commercial opportunity is in Brazil where we market sweet sorghum hybrids that can be used as a "drop-in" feedstock to complement existing feedstock supplies and extend the operating season of Brazilian sugarcane-to-ethanol mills. Our dedicated energy crops can also be used for the production of second-generation biofuels and bio-based chemicals, including cellulosic ethanol, butanol, jet fuel, diesel-like molecules and gasoline-like molecules, from non-food biomass. Finally, utility-scale electric power can be generated from the biomass feedstocks grown from our seeds.

The seed industry has historically required very little capital to produce, condition and package seeds, and seeds have typically been priced based on a share of the value they create and thus have generated high gross margins. As a producer of proprietary seeds, we believe we are in one of the most attractive segments of the bioenergy value chain - upstream from the capital-intensive refining and conversion of biomass. Therefore, we believe our success is tied to adoption of our products rather than the relative profitability of downstream participants. Our upstream position in the bioenergy value chain also allows us to be largely independent of the success of any particular conversion technology or end use.

Due to the nature of biotechnology, we believe other crops, such as corn, rice and soybean, can benefit from many of the traits and genetic technologies we are developing for dedicated energy crops, such as traits that provide drought tolerance. We have also generated many biotech traits specifically for cereal crops, such as rice, that increase grain yields and provide greater yield stability across different environments. Our strategy is to focus on genes that have shown large, step increases in performance, and whose benefits are maintained across multiple species. To date, our field evaluations have largely confirmed previous results obtained in greenhouse and laboratory settings, and we believe that based on these multiple confirmations, we have an industry leading biotech trait technology pipeline, with applications in our energy crops as well as other crops.

We believe that the strength of our technology has been validated by our receipt of multiple competitive grants and collaborations, including a United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, grant and one of the U.S. Department of Energy's first Advanced Research Project Agency for Energy, or ARPA-E, grants in 2009, as well as a $137 million multi-year collaboration with Monsanto Company signed in 2002. We also have significant intellectual property rights to our technology platforms, traits and seed products. We have out-licensed a portion of our traits and gene technology to existing market participants and continue to pursue opportunities to out-license these technologies.

We generate our revenues from government grants, research and development collaboration agreements and from product sales. We began selling products in 2008 and, while our product sales have been minimal to date, we expect product sales to eventually become the primary source of our revenues. We expect future product revenues to include a combination of seed sales and traits fees, similar to current business models used for food crops incorporating biotech traits. As we continue to develop traits for our products, we expect that a significant portion of our product revenues will be generated from the sale of seeds that include our traits. We believe our largest immediate market opportunity is selling our sorghum products into the Brazilian bioenergy market. Our longer term strategies involve capitalizing on the development of the emerging cellulosic biofuel and biopower markets in the United States and Europe.

We market and sell our sorghum seeds in Brazil and our switchgrass and sorghum seeds in the United States under our brand, Blade Energy Crops, or Blade.

Since 2010, we have completed various commercial-scale evaluations of our sweet sorghum products in Brazil with ethanol mills and mill suppliers. During this time, our seeds have been planted and harvested using existing equipment and fermented into ethanol without retrofitting or altering the existing mills. The remaining biomass from this industrial process has been combusted for electricity production using existing mill boilers. We believe these experiences have demonstrated the "drop-in" nature of our sweet sorghum products, and along with higher yielding products in our pipeline, will serve as the basis for expanded adoption of this product line as a feedstock for ethanol and power production in Brazil and other markets.

With industrial processing generally well established, we believe that field performance - primarily yields of sugars that can be fermented to ethanol - will largely determine the scale and pace at which our current and future products will be adopted. Based on industry feedback, we believe that minimum average yields in the range of 2,500 to 3,000 liters of ethanol per hectare will be necessary to achieve broad adoption. We believe that at least two growing seasons will be required to fully demonstrate this yield range. To date, we have demonstrated on a limited scale that such yields can be achieved with our products within their area of adaptation, provided that our crop management protocols are followed and plantings receive adequate rainfall; however, further optimizations and additional hybrids will be needed to consistently achieve economically attractive yields across wide-area plantings.

For the 2012-2013 season, ethanol yields from our sweet sorghum products ranged from approximately 450 to 3,600 liters per hectare, according to mill and company calculations. Mills that followed our recommended crop management practices generally achieved the highest average yields. Lower yields were primarily due to deviations from our recommended crop management protocols, weather-related delays during planting and disease infection late in the growing season. Yield results were available from approximately two-thirds of the more than 30 mills that planted Ceres' hybrids; remaining mills reported incomplete results, did not complete the evaluation or chose not to report results.

For the 2013-2014 season, we expect to evaluate our hybrids at approximately 50 mills and mill suppliers. These plantings primarily consist of small, multi-hybrid evaluations designed to determine yield potential, identify the best performing hybrids for specific regions and demonstrate various crop management practices. Several of these mills are expected to plant larger evaluations. Total plantings of our sorghum products are expected to cover up to approximately 1,000 hectares for the 2013-2014 sorghum growing season compared to approximately 3,000 hectares for the previous season due primarily to a greater focus among mills on field performance, which can be determined at a smaller scale than evaluations needed for confirming industrial performance.

For the 2013-2014 sorghum growing season in Brazil, we have offered leading mill groups the opportunity to participate in sales incentive and performance based promotional programs. Depending on the size of the seed purchase and the crop yield in biomass or ethanol, we could incur costs representing a portion of some customers' production costs or anticipated yield. In certain cases, we may participate directly in, and may incur certain unreimbursed costs for seed, crop production and agronomy services during this season. Certain of our revenues from seed sales and services provided will be deferred until completion of the growing season, which we currently expect to occur in the fiscal third quarter.

We have invested significantly in research, development and technology and applied our proprietary technology platforms to energy crops. For the fiscal years ended August 31, 2013, 2012 and 2011, we spent $16.4 million, $19.2 million and $19.0 million, respectively, on research and development, with the main emphasis on breeding and traits.

Our other operating expenses are related to selling, general and administrative expenses incurred to establish and build our market presence and business infrastructure as well as seed production costs. Inventory costs have been computed on a first-in, first-out basis and valued at the lower of cost or market with any excess cost recognized during the period within cost of product sales. Prior to fiscal year 2012, we recorded a full valuation reserve against all seed inventory due to the early commercialization of our seed products and no established market for these products. As of August 31, 2013, inventory consisted of work-in-process related to sweet sorghum seeds. A full valuation reserve has been recorded on all other seed products as no established market exists. Our sales and marketing expenses have not been significant to date but we expect such expenses to increase as we pursue, enter and expand our market opportunities.

Historically, we have funded our operations from the proceeds from issuances of convertible preferred stock, warrants, convertible notes, debt financing, payments from collaborators and government grants. We have experienced significant losses as we invested heavily in research and development, and those costs have exceeded revenues earned through collaboration agreements and government grants. As of August 31, 2013, we had an accumulated deficit of $274.6 million. We incurred net losses of $32.5 million, $29.4 million and $36.3 million in the years ended August 31, 2013, 2012 and 2011, respectively. We expect to incur additional losses related to the continued development of our business including research and development, seed production and operations, and sales and marketing. There is no assurance that profitable operations will be achieved, or if achieved, can be sustained on a continued basis.

On October 11, 2013, we commenced a plan intended to further align our expenditures with our near-term commercial opportunity in Brazil, shift Northern Hemisphere sorghum breeding activities to a more appropriate location, deemphasize research and development for U.S. cellulosic feedstocks, reduce costs and conserve cash. As a result, we do not intend to fully utilize our facilities at College Station in the near term and may seek alternative or additional uses for the location which may include, among others, leasing office, storage and greenhouse space or selling the facility and any unnecessary assets.

These measures, which include a workforce reduction that will impact 17 positions in the U.S., are expected to be substantially completed by May 31, 2014. Once fully implemented, these measures are expected to deliver cash savings of up to approximately $5.0 million in fiscal year 2014 and up to approximately $8.0 to $10.0 million annually thereafter. We estimate that we will incur total charges of approximately $1.6 million during the first nine months of fiscal year 2014 with respect to the workforce reduction in the U.S., including $0.4 million in continuation of salary and benefits of certain employees until their work is completed and their positions are eliminated and $1.2 million of one-time severance and other costs, all of which will be cash expenditures.

Initial Public Offering

On February 27, 2012, we closed our initial public offering, or the IPO, of 5,750,000 shares of common stock (including 750,000 shares purchased by the underwriters upon the exercise of their right to purchase up to an additional 750,000 shares) at an offering price of $13.00 per share, resulting in net proceeds to us of approximately $65.2 million, after deducting underwriting discounts and commissions and offering expenses.

Upon the closing of the IPO, our outstanding shares of convertible preferred stock were automatically converted into 15,353,221 shares of common stock and our outstanding convertible subordinated notes, or the Convertible Notes, were automatically converted into 1,098,575 shares of common stock. Additionally, our warrants to purchase shares of our common stock issued in connection with the issuance of our Series F Preferred Stock offering, or the Series F Warrants, and Series G Preferred Stock offering, or the Series G Warrants, were marked-to-market upon the IPO closing and we will no longer record any changes in the fair value of these warrants as they are now equity classified. Our warrants to purchase shares of convertible preferred stock issued in connection with certain financing arrangements converted to warrants to purchase shares of common stock upon the IPO closing, and are also now equity classified. As such, we will no longer record any changes in fair value for these warrants.

Key Components of Our Results of Operations


To date, our revenues have related to our product sales, collaborative research and government grants.

Product Sales. Product sales are primarily composed of sales of seeds. We began selling products in 2008.

Collaborative Research. Collaborative research revenues generally consist of payments for research and development activities for specific projects. These arrangements may include a combination of non-refundable technology license fees, research and development fees, and/or fees for the achievement of contractually defined milestone events and royalties.

Government Grants. Government grant revenues consist of payments from government entities. The terms of these grants generally provide us with reimbursement for research and development services and certain types of capital expenditures over a contractually defined period.

Cost of Product Sales

Cost of product sales consists principally of the cost of labor, raw materials and third-party services related to growing, harvesting, packaging and shipping our seeds. These costs are comprised of the direct costs of our seed production employees, as well as the temporary seasonal labor costs during planting and harvesting times. Third-party services include contract labor, grower payments and other professional services related to the cost of product sales. Cost of product sales also consists of input costs such as chemicals and seed production costs. Costs associated with collaboration, research and government grants are not included in cost of product sales but instead are included as research and development expenses. Although historically not significant, future royalty expenses associated with collaboration and license agreements with third parties will be included in cost of product sales. The amount of royalties we owe under these agreements is a function of our sales, and the applicable royalty rates depend on a number of factors, including the portion of our third-party collaborator's intellectual property that is present in our products. We believe that as we develop our agronomic production operations, we will be able to achieve lower cost of product sales. To date, we have relied principally on third parties for the production of our sweet sorghum seed for use in Brazil. We believe that as we increase seed production volumes, we will be able to achieve better economies of scale from these third parties. In addition, we intend to produce more of our own seeds in Brazil, which will allow us to further decrease our costs. In the U.S., we are currently producing our switchgrass and sorghum products at our own facility in Texas.

Research and Development

Research and development expenses principally consist of personnel costs related to our research and development staff in support of plant breeding, agronomy, technology development and protection, and exploratory research. Research and development expenses also include costs incurred for laboratory supplies, reimbursable costs associated with government grants and our collaborative agreements, third-party contract payments, consultants and facility and related overhead costs. Since our IPO, we have aligned our investments in research and development and expect that our research and development expenses will decrease in absolute dollars in the near-term. Also included in research and development expenses are expenses in connection with warrants granted to The Texas A&M University System and The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Inc. The warrants vest based on the achievement of certain research and commercialization milestones or the passage of time. The warrants are accounted for at fair value at each quarter end until the vesting targets are met using the Black Scholes option pricing model. As a publicly traded company, the volatility of our stock price could cause an increase in the warrant fair value and resulting expense charges to research and development.

We do not track our research and development expenditures by project. Our ongoing research and development activities are dedicated to expanding our integrated platforms which consist of a combination of genetic assets, specifically germplasm and traits, and competencies in genomics and biotechnology. Our research and development expenses consist principally of personnel and related costs and at November 15, 2013, we had 41 full-time employees primarily engaged in our research and development activities. Our employees' work time is spread across multiple research and development methods continuously focused on our technology platforms and to a much lesser extent areas for which we have received government grant awards and collaboration funding. As we obtain data from our efforts, we may elect to reprioritize, delay or discontinue activities in order to focus our resources on more promising research and development methods.

Selling, General and Administrative

Selling, general and administrative expenses consist primarily of personnel costs related to our executive, sales, legal, finance and human resources staff and professional fees including legal and accounting. Selling costs relate to business development and our sales and marketing programs to build brand awareness. We improve our brand awareness through programs including publication of crop management guides, speaking roles at industry events, trade show displays and local-level grower meetings. Costs related to these activities, including travel, are included in selling expenses. While we expect our selling expenses to increase in the near term, we believe that our focus on a relatively small number of customers, particularly in Brazil, where we are primarily marketing our products to mill operators, should allow us to operate with relatively modest overall selling expenses. After our IPO, selling, general and administrative expenses increased in absolute dollars in order to support product development and the requirements of being a public company. Such increases included increased insurance premiums, investor relations expenses, legal and accounting fees associated with the expansion of our business and corporate governance, financial reporting expenses, and other regulatory compliance obligations. We hired additional personnel, particularly in the area of general and administrative activities to support the growth of our business. We expect our selling, general and administrative expenses to decrease in the near-term.

Interest Expense

We recognize interest expense on our debt obligations. We expect interest expense to fluctuate in the future with changes in our debt levels.

Interest Income

Interest income consists primarily of interest earned on investments and cash balances. Our interest income will vary each reporting period depending on our average investment and cash balances during the period and market interest rates. We expect interest income to fluctuate in the future with changes in average investment and cash balances and market interest rates.

Other Income (Expense)

Prior to the closing of the IPO, our other income (expense) consisted primarily of the change in the fair value of our convertible preferred warrants, certain of our common stock warrants and the Convertible Notes. Our preferred stock warrants and certain of our common stock warrants were classified as liabilities. Upon the closing of the IPO, our preferred stock warrants converted to equity classified common stock warrants, and the impact to our results of operations from our preferred stock, Convertible Notes and certain of our common stock warrant liabilities was eliminated.

Provision for Income Tax Benefits

Since our inception, we have been subject to income taxes principally in the United States and Brazil, where we established a legal presence in 2010. We anticipate that as we expand our operations outside the United States, we will become subject to taxation based on the foreign statutory rates and our effective tax rate could fluctuate accordingly.

Income taxes are computed using the asset and liability method, under which deferred tax assets and liabilities are determined based on the difference between the financial statement and tax bases of assets and liabilities using enacted tax rates in effect for the year in which the differences are expected to affect taxable income. Valuation allowances are established when necessary to reduce deferred tax assets to the amount expected to be realized.

As of August 31, 2013 and 2012, based on the available information, it is more likely than not that our deferred tax assets will not be realized, and accordingly we have taken a full valuation allowance against all of our deferred tax assets. As of August 31, 2013, we had approximately $223.2 million of federal, $152.7 million of state and $14.6 million of foreign operating loss carry-forwards available to offset future taxable income, if any, which expire in varying amounts from 2018 through 2033 for federal tax purposes and from 2014 through 2033 for state tax purposes if unused. The carry-forward period for the foreign net operating loss is indefinite. Federal and state laws impose substantial restrictions on the utilization of net operating loss and tax credit carry-forwards in the event of an "ownership change", as defined in Section 382 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, or the Internal Revenue Code. We have not completed a Section 382 analysis to determine if a change in ownership has occurred. Until an analysis is completed, there can be no assurance that the existing net operating loss carry-forwards or credits are not subject to significant limitation.

Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates

Our discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations is based upon our consolidated financial statements, which have been prepared in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States. The preparation of these consolidated financial statements requires us to make estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets, liabilities, revenues, expenses and related disclosures. We base our estimates and assumptions on historical experience and on various other factors that we believe to be reasonable under the circumstances. We evaluate our estimates and assumptions on an ongoing basis. The results of our analysis form the basis for making assumptions about the carrying values of assets and liabilities that are not readily apparent from other sources. Our actual results may differ from these estimates under different assumptions or conditions.

We believe the following critical accounting policies involve significant areas of management's judgments and estimates in the preparation of our financial statements.

Revenue Recognition

Revenues are recognized when the following criteria are met: (1) persuasive evidence of an arrangement exists; (2) transfer of product or technology has been completed or services have been rendered; (3) the fee is fixed or determinable; and (4) collectability is reasonably assured. To date, our primary source of revenues has been derived from research collaborations and government grants and to a lesser extent, product sales.

Product Sales

Product sales are derived from sales of seeds, trait fees, crop management services and biomass that was delivered under certain of our sales incentive and performance based programs for the 2012-2013 growing season in Brazil. Product sales are recognized, net of discounts and allowances, once passage of title and risk of loss have occurred and contractually specified acceptance criteria have been met, provided all other revenue recognition criteria have also been met.

Collaborative Research and Government Grants

From time to time, we have entered into research and development collaboration agreements with third parties, including a large agriculture supplier, a consumer goods conglomerate and several biofuel producers. In addition, we have received grants from government agencies such as the DOE and the USDA. The research and development collaboration agreements typically provide us with multiple revenue streams, which may include upfront, non-refundable fees for licensing certain of our technologies, fees for research and development activities, and contingent milestone payments upon achievement of contractual criteria.

Technology License Fees. For collaboration agreements in which we have continuing involvement, license fees are recognized on a straight-line basis over the term of the arrangement. Licensing fees are non-refundable and not subject to future performance.

Government Grants. We receive payments from government entities in the form of government grants. Government grants generally provide us with cost reimbursement for certain types of expenditures in return for research and development activities over a contractually defined period, as well as an allocated portion of our overhead expenses. Revenues from government grants are recognized in the period during which the related costs are incurred, provided that substantially all conditions under which the government grants were provided have been met and we only have perfunctory obligations outstanding.

Research and Development Fees. Generally, fees for research and development activities are recognized as the services are performed over the performance period, as specified in the respective agreements. Certain of our collaboration agreements require us to deliver research data by specific dates and the collective program plan will result in reaching specific crop characteristics by certain dates. For such arrangements, we recognize revenues based on the approximate percentage of completion of services under the agreement, but the revenue recognized cannot exceed the payments that have accrued to us to date under the agreement. The research and development period is estimated at the inception of each agreement and is periodically evaluated.

Milestone Payments. Fees that are contingent upon achievement of substantive performance milestones at inception of the agreement are recognized based on the achievement of the milestone, as defined in the respective agreements.

We recognize deferred revenue to the extent that cash received under the collaboration agreement is in excess of the revenues recognized related to the . . .

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