Metabolix Inc. is selling its bioplastics business to a South Korean agricultural firm for $10 million.
The buyer is CJ CheilJedang Corp. In March, Woburn, Mass.-based Metabolix announced it was partnering with CJ to build a plant making Mirel-brand polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) bioresins at a CJ site in Fort Dodge, Iowa.
The deal comes a month after Metabolix announced plans to exit bioplastics. The transaction includes biopolymer intellectual property, some lab equipment and a sublease for part of the Metabolix site in Woburn.
“We believe this transaction will help put the company on a more stable footing and enable us to move forward with our plan to make Yield10 Bioscience our core business,” President and CEO Joseph Shaulson said in an Aug. 22 news release.
Metabolix will continue with a staff of about 20 people. The firm also plans to change its name to Yield10 Bioscience — which is the name of the firm's crop enhancement technology. The bioplastics unit employs about 45.
In March, Shaulson said that Seoul-based CJ — which already operates a fermentation unit in Fort Dodge — “brings impressive engineering capabilities and operating expertise that will be critical to the success” of the planned bioresin plant there.
Metabolix has not made its materials in the United States since early 2012, when Archer Daniels Midland ended a production deal between the two firms at a plant in Clinton, Iowa.
Metabolix investor Cellulac plc — a bioscience firm based in London — had proposed a merger of the two companies. In a July 25 letter to Metabolix investors, Cellulac chief executive Gerard Brandon was highly critical of Metabolix management, saying they declined a previous merger offer his firm had made in May without even informing shareholders.
Although its plant-based resins have won several industry awards, Metabolix has struggled financially. The firm posted a loss of almost $23.7 million in 2015 as sales fell 7 percent to just under $2.6 million. Metabolix lost $29.5 million in 2014.
On Wall Street, Metabolix's per-share stock price was above $4 as recently as mid-2015 but closed at 39 cents on Aug. 22.