Not long ago, previously acquisition-happy marijuana companies put the brakes on spending. Collectively, they lost money much more frequently than they made it -- so snapping up new assets to build scale became a less hot idea than it had been a few years ago.
That was then, and this is now. Last week's big cannabis company news was a throwback to the good old days of 2018 or so, with Aurora Cannabis (NYSE: ACB) signing on the dotted line for a buyout. Another key pot industry event transpiring last week came when a major dispensary operator reporting its latest set of earnings. Here's more on both developments.
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Aurora buys Reliva
Canada-based Aurora is reaching across the border for that acquisition. It announced it has agreed to buy U.S. hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) products maker Reliva in a deal for roughly $40 million in Aurora common stock, plus up to $45 million over the next two years in cash, stock, or a combination of the two if Reliva meets specific financial goals.
Aurora said it expects Reliva to be "immediately accretive" in terms of every marijuana company's preferred operational metric -- adjusted EBITDA. This would help Aurora, as it's required by debt covenants to be adjusted EBITDA-profitable overall in Q1 of next year.
Aurora didn't say whether Reliva is profitable on the bottom line; I'm assuming it's not if adjusted EBITDA is mentioned in place of net profit/loss. Its annual revenue is $13 million to $14 million, according to a report in MarketWatch; for scale, Aurora's top line in 2019 hit almost $248 million Canadian ($177 million).
This buy is somewhat surprising, given that Aurora has been in retreat mode since late last year. It suspended construction and expansion activities at two of its facilities, hung a "for sale" sign on one of its greenhouses, and in the wake of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus furloughed around 500 of its employees.
While investors can be guardedly positive about some recent news with Aurora, such as its latest set of quarterly results, I don't think they should jump for joy here.
Yes, CBD products are trendy among certain consumers just now. But they aren't the big and fast-growing money spinner that would make an acquisition like this have a significant impact.
The company's balance sheet isn't particularly strong, and it tends to issue and spend its own stock a bit too much for comfort, in my view. The Reliva acquisition doesn't move the needle on my generally bearish stance on Aurora -- despite some encouraging numbers in its Q3, it was well in the red for the quarter. Meanwhile, it continues to struggle with many of the same difficulties afflicting its Canadian cannabis peers.
Curaleaf's mixed Q1
Speaking of U.S. cannabis companies, last week saw the release of Curaleaf's (OTC: CURLF) Q1 fiscal 2020 numbers. They weren't half bad as far as recent weed stock earnings go.
The marijuana producer and retailer didn't hit the average analyst estimate for revenue, but it wasn't too far away from it. Plus that line item increased by almost 30% quarter over quarter to almost $96.5 million. Net loss, meanwhile, was narrower than expected and a significant improvement over the preceding quarter's result.
Curaleaf's retail focus seems to be serving it well; dispensary openings and acquisitions were the moves that helped lift that top-line figure. And in most states -- although not necessarily the company's home of Massachusetts, at least initially -- marijuana stores have been classified as "essential" businesses allowed to operate through the coronavirus pandemic. This should help keep the company afloat in the coming months.
It's sounding a bullish note about the rest of 2020, predicting that both revenue and the bottom line will continue to improve. Meanwhile, the company appears to have enough cash for now, so perhaps it won't be tapping the debt or equity markets for new funding soon, as it has in the recent past.
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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.