Pot Stock Aphria Chopped in Half Since Short Report

(Bloomberg) -- Aphria Inc.’s stock price has been cut in half since the beginning of the week, with a short-seller doubling down on his allegations and the pot firm receiving its first downgrade from the Street Wednesday.

The cannabis company’s shares fell another 13 percent to close at C$5.11 in Toronto, bringing its three-day decline to 51 percent. Other pot stocks fell in tandem, with Aurora Cannabis Inc. losing 11 percent, Canopy Growth Corp. down 9 percent and Cronos Group Inc. falling 8 percent.

Pot Stock Aphria Chopped in Half Since Short Report

The rout followed Quintessential Capital’s short analysis at the Kase Learning Shorting conference Monday morning. Gabriel Grego, founder of Quintessential, told BNN Bloomberg television that he expects the stock to go to zero.

“First of all the company seems to be setting up, if our thesis is correct, for a giant asset write off,” Grego said. “We believe they’re going to have a hard time raising new cash, and of course long-term the survival of the company depends on cash’s oxygen.”

Grego said Quintessential still has a “sizable” short position in Aphria and is “quite eager” to defend his allegations in court. His report claims that Aphria paid inflated prices for companies held by insiders in Latin America.

Meanwhile, Eight Capital’s Graeme Kreindler cited uncertainty around the company following Monday’s allegations for his downgrade to neutral from buy. He cut his price target 68 percent to C$7 per share from C$22 per share.

Aphria’s management team needs to make “significant strides” to rebuild trust and investor confidence in the market, Kreindler writes in a research note. He remains uncertain with respect to future legal and regulatory issues.

The potential for Aphria to partner or be acquired by big players in the alcohol, tobacco or pharmaceuticals industries has likely decreased “significantly” in the short term following release of the short report, Kreindler wrote, while potential partners will likely look elsewhere in the cannabis universe. On Monday, marijuana producer Cronos Group Inc. confirmed it’s in talks about a potential investment from Altria Group Inc.

Eight Capital’s downgrade follows GMP Securities analyst Martin Landry removing his price target and putting his rating under review Tuesday.

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