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Jan 14, 2022

Tilray rally fades as investor doubts about pot stocks prevail

Tilray Brands is focused on gaining back market share in Canada: CEO


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Canadian cannabis titan Tilray Inc. fell for a third straight day, surrendering much of a rally posted earlier this week after earnings that were buoyed by acquisitions and a rebranding -- moves aimed at strengthening its global reach in the face of stiff competition at home.

Canada’s marijuana-market leader still rose about 7 per cent this week, thanks to a 14 per cent surge on Monday, when it reported better-than-expected results and said it was repositioning itself as a global consumer packaged-goods “powerhouse.” Demand for its cannabis brands, craft beer and hemp products boosted profits, the company said.

Tilray has seen its stock collapse in the past year along with rival Canopy Growth Corp. and other Canadian cannabis licensed providers, known as LP’s, amid domestic competition and the stalled move toward U.S. federal legalization of marijuana. 

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“No one knows if those Canadian LPs will ever be able to come to the U.S., and even if they were allowed, they have a real uphill battle versus U.S. companies that already have licenses and complete businesses up and running on this side of the border,” said Dan Ahrens, a portfolio manager at AdvisorShares in Bethesda, Maryland. “But at least Tilray -- and even Canopy to a lesser extent -- have inroads to the U.S. through acquisitions or partnerships.”

The question now is whether the companies’ moves to broaden their reach outside Canada will be enough to put a floor under their shares.

Tilray is down around 90 per cent from a peak in February 2021, reached on speculation that U.S. lawmakers would overhaul the nation’s marijuana laws. Canopy has lost roughly 85 per cent since then. Wall Street buy recommendations are few and far between, and the key for investors remains U.S. federal legalization, which would allow Canadian licensed producers to sell cannabis south of the border.

Tilray Chief Executive Officer Irwin Simon said on a conference call with analysts Monday that he doesn’t see U.S. federal legalization for at least the next two years. 

“The longer legalization takes, the more the U.S. cannabis companies will grow and consolidate the industry,” said Pablo Zuanic, an analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald LP, who gives both Tilray and Canopy neutral ratings. “It will be more difficult for the Canadian companies to start from scratch, and they would need to acquire the larger U.S. multistate operators.”

With pressure mounting from smaller players, Tilray’s share of Canada’s adult-use market tumbled to 12 per cent last quarter, from 20 per cent a year earlier, according to Raymond James Financial Inc. Canopy, the largest Canadian cannabis company by market capitalization, saw its share drop to 8 per cent from 13 per cent.

Tilray struck a deal in December to buy Breckenridge Distillery, a Colorado-based producer of spirits. In August, it announced a stake in California-based MedMen Enterprises Inc., which could grow if the U.S. legalizes cannabis federally. It also combined with Aphria Inc. to better position for growth in the U.S. and Europe.

Canopy, meanwhile, has a deal to buy New York-based marijuana company Acreage Holdings Inc., pending U.S. federal legalization. It’s also betting on beer and alcohol, through Constellation Brands Inc., which owns a stake in Canopy.