Cash is king. It's trite, but it's true. And especially so in the marijuana industry.
Companies that are flush with cash are able to more easily fund expansion projects and make strategic acquisitions. With the rapid growth in global marijuana markets, these efforts can make the difference between long-term success and failure.
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Which marijuana stocks claim the biggest cash stockpiles? The top three probably won't be surprising: Canopy Growth (NYSE: CGC), Cronos Group (NASDAQ: CRON), and Aurora Cannabis (NYSE: ACB).
1. Canopy Growth
Canopy Growth easily takes the top spot for the most cash in the marijuana industry. The company reported 429.4 million Canadian dollars (roughly US$319 million) as of Sept. 30, 2018. However, there have been some important developments since then that have impacted Canopy Growth's cash position.
The biggest of these developments is the close of Constellation Brands' (NYSE: STZ) investment in Canopy on Nov. 1, 2018. This deal brought an additional US$4 billion into Canopy's coffers. More importantly, though, it aligns Canopy Growth with one of the largest alcoholic beverage companies in the world -- one that has an impressive track record in developing successful brands in highly regulated markets.
Canopy also used some cash over the last few months. On top of funding operations, the company shelled out CA$25 million, plus handed over over 6.2 million shares of its stock, to buy Colorado-based hemp researcher ebbu. Canopy Growth also invested CA$3 million (roughly US$2.2 million) in smaller Canadian marijuana grower 48North Cannabis and acquired German vaporizer maker Storz & Bickel for 145 million euros (around US$165 million). Even with these expenditures, though, the Constellation deal puts Canopy in an enviable cash position compared with its peers.
2. Cronos Group
Cronos Group reported CA$41.5 million (close to US$31 million) in cash as of Sept. 30, 2018. That total actually isn't nearly enough to land Cronos in the top three cash stockpiles in the marijuana industry. So why did the company make the list?
Like Canopy, Cronos also had a major deal with a company outside of the cannabis industry. On Dec. 7, 2018, Cronos Group announced that tobacco giant Altria (NYSE: MO) was buying 45% of the company for approximately CA$2.4 billion (US$1.8 billion) in cash.
Granted, the Altria deal hasn't closed yet. Cronos Group doesn't officially have the big amount in hand. But there are no obstacles in sight to prevent the transaction from being finalized in the next few months. Cronos Group's cash stockpile might technically have a lot of IOUs in place for now, but there's no question that the company is sitting pretty.
3. Aurora Cannabis
Aurora Cannabis had CA$147.8 million (around US$110 million) in cash and cash equivalents at the end of September 2018. The company's cash stockpile came the old-fashioned way (at least for marijuana producers) -- it issued a whole lot of stock.
The reality for Aurora is that issuing additional shares is the easiest way to get its hands on much-needed cash. But it comes at a cost. While Aurora's market cap has increased significantly in 2018, its share price has plunged.
Aurora also continues to burn through its cash. Since the end of its quarter ending Sept. 30, the company has invested an additional CA$20 million (roughly US$15 million) in cannabis retailer Choom and CA$10 million (close to US$7.4 million) in cannabis lifestyle and accessories retailer High Tide. Aurora also completed the acquisition of ICC Labs, but that deal was funded through the issuance of stock and warrants.
Cash heading south
Regardless of how much cash these three marijuana stocks have, their cash stockpiles are heading south. Figuratively and literally.
The legalization of hemp (which by definition is cannabis that contains no more than 0.03% THC) in the U.S. presents a big opportunity for the major Canadian marijuana producers. Canopy Growth has already indicated that it plans to enter the U.S. hemp market. Cronos Group and Aurora Cannabis probably won't be too far behind.
None of these three companies have U.S. operations right now because they can't do so and keep their stock listings on major exchanges. But the new opportunity could mean that cash will begin flooding from Canada into the U.S. to establish operations. Rivals in the Canadian marijuana industry without nice cash stockpiles could scramble to raise money to head south along with their more well-heeled peers.
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