The timing couldn’t have been much better.
Aurora Cannabis (NASDAQOTH: ACBFF) Chief Corporate Officer Cam Battley spoke and fielded questions in a virtual investor conference on Thursday morning. Only a couple of hours later, the Canadian Senate was scheduled to begin deliberations on legislation to legalize recreational marijuana.
As you might expect, there was plenty of discussion about Aurora’s next big potential market in Canada. However, Battley sounded even more enthusiastic about the company’s worldwide opportunities. Here are five must-see quotes from his remarks.
1. Any potential delay in recreational marijuana legalization in Canada “doesn’t really affect us”
Battley noted that Thursday was “a big day” with the Canadian Senate vote on bill C-45, a measure that would legalize recreational marijuana throughout the country. He said that “most bets” were for an implementation date in September 2018.
But what if implementation takes longer than expected? Battley stated that while “some companies have gambled pretty heavily” on a quick opening of markets for retail marijuana, a potential delay “doesn’t really affect us.” He explained that due to Aurora’s many distribution channels, the company “can sell every gram” it produces.
2. “We’re not worried” about a supply glut in Canada
You’ve probably heard predictions of a major supply glut of cannabis that’s on the way with practically every marijuana grower in Canada cranking up production capacity. However, Battley said “we’re not worried” about the potential for an oversupply scenario.
He noted that some of the capacity projections from Canadian marijuana growers “are pretty bullish” and stated his opinion that not all of those projections will become reality. Battley echoed the sentiment expressed recently by Aphria (NASDAQOTH: APHQF) CEO Vic Neufield that some smaller players likely won’t survive. He also mentioned another reason Aurora isn’t concerned about a supply glut that we’ll discuss a little later.
3. Aurora is in the midst of what is “essentially a land grab”
Several Canadian marijuana growers have been criticized about issuing lots of new shares, which dilute the value of existing shares, to make multiple acquisitions. Battley acknowledged that Aurora Cannabis has used dilutionary bought-deal financing arrangements to help fund eight acquisitions over the last 12 months, plus several more strategic partnerships.
However, he also said that Aurora is the midst of what is “essentially a land grab.” Battley used this expression to explain the company’s sense of urgency in establishing integrated operations as quickly as possible.
He noted that Aurora wasn’t included in the original group of 13 companies that received licenses to cultivate and distribute medical marijuana in Canada. As a result, he said the company is “a come-from-behind story” and has had to catch up with others in the industry, but he thinks Aurora now has “an insurmountable lead.”
4. Many haven’t fully appreciated the “enormous” global medical marijuana opportunity
Another reason Aurora isn’t concerned about a supply glut in Canada is that the company is looking at the big picture. Battley stated that “not everyone has fully appreciated” the global medical marijuana market that could reach as high as $180 billion down the road. He stressed that this is an “enormous” opportunity — but not for every marijuana grower.
He thinks Aurora and its main rival, Canopy Growth (NYSE: CGC), are in great shape to compete in international markets. However, Battley said that “the challenge for other companies to catch up is significant.” His view is that very few marijuana growers have the “experience, demonstrated ability to work under rigorous regulations, excess capacity, and access to capital” to compete effectively in the global medical marijuana market.
5. We’re “poised and ready to enter the U.S. market in a big way very fast”
What about the most lucrative market of all — the U.S.? Battley said Aurora Cannabis won’t do anything to jeopardize its listing on the Toronto Stock Exchange, like some others have, a veiled reference to the issues that Aphria encountered several months ago that forced the company to scale back its U.S. plans.
Battley was asked, though, how quickly Aurora would enter the U.S. market if federal laws are changed to allow legal use of marijuana. His response: “Do you have a stopwatch?” Battley said Aurora is “poised and ready to enter the U.S. market in a big way very fast” if federal laws change.
A lot of spin?
You might read some of Cam Battley’s statements and suspect he’s merely spinning everything as positively as possible. And that’s probably true to some extent. After all, the purpose of the virtual conference was to attract attention from potential investors, especially those in the U.S. and Europe.
A delay in implementation of recreational marijuana legalization in Canada would almost certainly affect Aurora stock’s price. I suspect supply will outstrip demand in Canada sooner than Battley thinks — or at least was willing to admit. And Aurora’s use of dilution-causing stock offerings to fund a steady stream of acquisitions does raise some legitimate questions for investors.
However, I think Battley was right that many investors are too focused on the Canadian market and are overlooking the huge global potential over the long run. Some are also underestimating the first-mover advantages that Aurora and Canopy Growth have in international markets.
The main challenges for these top marijuana stocks, in my view, will be how quickly those global markets expand compared to how quickly production capacity increases. It all comes down to timing.
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