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Jan 24, 2018

Aurora, CanniMed end takeover battle with friendly $1.1B deal

Cannabis seedlings are shown at the Aurora Cannabis facility in Montreal, November 24, 2017

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Aurora Cannabis and CanniMed Therapeutics have found a $1.1 billion-dollar solution to their bitter takeover fight. Aurora has made a friendly cash and stock bid for its smaller rival, valuing it at about $43 per share, after its earlier all-stock offer was rejected out of hand by CanniMed, which described it as undervaluing the company.

The new pact leaves Tragically Hip-backed Newstrike Resources, which Saskatoon-based CanniMed had agreed to buy in an all-stock deal of its own, out in the cold as it will be excluded from the deal. As a result, CanniMed will pay Newstrike a $9.5-million break fee.

The friendly offer ends months of public posturing between Aurora and CanniMed, which exchanged a series of incendiary statements before and after Aurora took its offer hostile. CanniMed management frequently took issue with the all-stock nature of the earlier bid, repeatedly describing Aurora shares as “overvalued” and questioning the company’s operational expertise.

While the rhetoric became pitched at time, Aurora Chief Corporate Officer Cam Battley said it’s all in the past. In an interview on BNN immediately following the deal’s announcement Wednesday, Battley downplayed the earlier war of words, declaring the hostility dead and buried.

 

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CanniMed CEO Brent Zettl. (The Canadian Press)

“I think we came to a mutual conclusion that this was the right thing for both companies to do, and especially for our respective shareholders,” he said. “If you think about what we can achieve together - with the kind of scale and the kind of assets that we both bring to the table - this is a pretty exciting deal. It’s hard to say no to.”

The acquisition will be the largest in the history of not just the Canadian cannabis industry, but the world’s. Battley said he expects the deal will likely break the logjam in merger and acquisition activity, as established players look to position themselves prior to Canada’s pending legalization of recreational marijuana.

“I think we can probably anticipate that it could trigger some additional consolidation,” he said.

“There’s no question that 2018 is going to be a year of significant change in this sector, and we’re trying to get ahead of that wave. That’s a big part of why we were interested in proceeding with this acquisition.”

Battley said he doesn’t anticipate the deal will result in job cuts, as the combined company will ramp up production in order to meet an anticipated increase in demand.

“Our plans for CanniMed in Saskatchewan are very big. We’re not looking at cutting back: we’re actually looking at investing more and expanding more, and in fact accelerating the expansion plans that CanniMed already had in place,” Battley said.

Shares in CanniMed rose closed Wednesday trading up 11.7 per cent - or $4.39 - to $41.90 a share on the Toronto Stock Exchange, while Aurora Cannabis dipped 5.48 per cent, or 81 cents, to close at $13.98 a share. Newstrike shares closed down 19.23 per cent, or 35 cents, at $1.47 on the TSX Venture Exchange. 

An earlier version of this story included an incorrect title for Cam Battley. BNN regrets the error.