Pot Stocks Post Longest Run of Weekly Gains Since August
(Bloomberg) -- Pot stocks marked their third consecutive week of gains last week, the longest such winning streak since August, riding high on the broader market’s upbeat mood. This week, we’ll get a better idea of just how big the global cannabis market could get, along with a host of other potential catalysts.
Not even an earnings miss and further drama from Aphria Inc. could derail the optimism last week. The company announced Friday that Chief Executive Officer Vic Neufeld will step down in the coming months but will remain on the board following a short-seller report that alleged Aphria bought assets at inflated prices from insiders. Aphria has now recouped much of its loss from the Dec. 3 report, including a 5.4 percent gain on Friday.
Aphria’s earnings also provided a peek into the dynamics shaping Canada’s recreational pot market. The company’s cannabis sales in the quarter ended Nov. 30, which included about a month-and-a-half of rec sales, rose a whopping 92 percent. The average selling price fell more than 8 percent however as recreational pot tends to go for less than medical. A licensing backlog at Health Canada is also delaying Aphria’s efforts to bring new production facilities online, potentially exacerbating the country’s supply shortage in the short term.
Speaking of supply shortages, Ontario held the lottery for its first 25 cannabis retail store licenses and it appears that the winners are largely mom and pop outfits. Canada’s most populous province has initially limited the number of stores due to the lack of product and has said it will issue more licenses as shortages ease.
There are still many kinks to be ironed out in Canada’s rec market but at least one big investor sees more gains ahead. Tilray Inc. shares jumped Friday after Bloomberg reported that the company’s post-IPO lockup period expires on Jan. 15, giving top shareholder Privateer Holdings Inc. its first opportunity to sell. An hour after the story was published, Privateer put out a statement saying it won’t divest any of the 75 million shares it owns in the first half of 2019, sending the stock up 19 percent.
The positivity didn’t rub off on Constellation Brands Inc., which slumped 12 percent Wednesday, the most in six years, after cutting its profit outlook. The alcohol company said higher interest expenses from its investment in Canopy Growth Corp. were partially to blame. Canopy investors shrugged off the news, sending the pot producer’s stock up by 13 percent on the same day and bringing its market cap above $13 billion by Friday’s close -- bigger than Viacom Inc.
Yet investor attention is clearly shifting away from the relatively tiny Canadian market. At the AltaCorp Capital cannabis conference in Toronto last week, Canada was very much overshadowed by chatter about international opportunities. Every company present emphasized their growth potential outside Canada, while most of the Canadian talk focused on negatives, like how the supply shortage in the recreational market could last for up to three years.
Aurora Cannabis Inc. Chief Corporate Officer Cam Battley said he doesn’t see much more need for big M&A in Canada -- a remarkable statement for a deal-hungry company that has done at least 10 acquisitions in the past two years. Apparently C$175 million doesn’t qualify as big, as Aurora said Monday it’s buying closely held Whistler Medical Marijuana Corp., one of Canada’s original 10 licensed producers, in an all-share deal valued at up to C$175 million including milestone payments.
The CEO of U.S. pot company Curaleaf Holdings Inc., meanwhile, said the company will deploy $250 million from its recent private placement towards acquisitions but has no plans to buy in Canada. Joe Lusardi also said he wants to list Curaleaf’s stock, which currently trades on the Canadian Securities Exchange, on a U.S. exchange as soon as possible, as it will open the company up to a much larger shareholder base.
Upcoming Events This Week
- Tilray’s post-IPO share lockup expires on Jan. 15
- SOL Global Investments Corp., the firm at the center of the Aphria short-seller allegations, will hold its annual general meeting on Jan. 15 at 10 a.m. Toronto time
- Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics will release their eighth State of Legal Marijuana Markets report on Jan. 15
- Two pot conferences in Florida: the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference in Miami and the ICR Conference in Orlando both run from Jan. 14-16
- Shareholders of MPX Bioceutical Corp. will vote on a $835 million takeover offer by iAnthus Capital Holdings Inc. on Jan. 15
- Bethesda, Maryland-based Cannabics Pharmaceuticals Inc. will report first-quarter earnings on Jan. 15
- Hexo Corp. will hold its annual general meeting in Toronto on Jan. 16
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