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July 6th, 2007
Anxious investors are but one of the problems plaguing nanotechnology, the cutting-edge science of manipulating materials and microscopic devices at the atomic level.
Consider the story of Oxonica, Britain's highest-profile publicly traded nanotech startup. It revealed in late April that one of its key products—a catalyst designed to cut vehicle emissions when combined with high-sulfur diesel fuel—didn't work as expected, leading to the cancellation of a big supply deal with Turkish oil retailer Petrol Ofisi.
Oxonica shares were suspended until June, but when trading began again, the price plunged nearly 75%, wiping out $80.7 million in Oxonica's market capitalization. To save face, the company noted that Petrol Ofisi had agreed to work with it on another project involving low-sulfur diesel. But the damage was done, and Oxonica's share price is still only half what it was in April.
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