Over the years, many unusual companies have made their way to the stock market. A shifting regulatory landscape is about to result in another -- the company that owns the pot smoker's favorite magazine, High Times. This very atypical market debut might ultimately end up being a scruffy underdog winner.
No, I haven't been smoking anything. Here's why I believe this.
It's high time for High Times
It's worth devoting a little space to the alternative way High Times is wafting onto the bourse.
Rather than going the traditional IPO route, High Times Holding, the entity that owns the magazine, is merging with a listed company, Origo Acquisition. Origo is a blank-check company, defined by Investopedia as a corporation "in a developmental stage that either doesn't have an established business plan or has a business plan that revolves around a merger or acquisition with another firm."
High Times Holding's absorption by Origo fits the second part of the definition. Once the transaction closes, High Times Holding and its core assets (the magazine and related website) will officially become a publicly traded company, most likely under a new name.
Entering a blank-check entity is essentially a back-door way to get listed on a stock exchange. It avoids the hassle and expense of crafting a traditional IPO and requires far less disclosure -- prospectuses for IPOs usually run to a hundred pages or more; Origo's latest filing on the High Times Holding deal weighs in at less than 10.
A story published in High Times about the deal opined that "[g]iven the rapidly expanding acceptance and legalization of cannabis, High Times believes access to capital and an elevated profile via its anticipated public company listing will enable it to expand its brand and fund new business opportunities that leverage nationwide medical and recreational usage initiatives."
Feel the buzz
High Times Holding is still, at the moment, privately held, so we can't get a fix on its financial performance.
What we can say is that High Times Holding (or whatever Origo is to be called, assuming it gets a new name) is joining a roster of marijuana stocks that's still very small.
One, GW Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:GWPH), leads the pack, thanks to a cannaboid-based medicine it's developed to treat seizures for two uncommon forms of epilepsy. But that drug, Epidiolex, is still some way from receiving FDA approval -- assuming, of course, that it is approved. The only product the company has on the market, Sativex, is not available in the U.S. and has not been a top seller regardless.
Meanwhile, underneath GW Pharmaceuticals lies a smattering of stocks usually related to medical marijuana, such as, well, Medical Marijuana (NASDAQOTH:MJNA) and Axim Biotechnologies (NASDAQOTH:AXIM). Medical Marijuana's sales have been growing robustly, and Axim seems to have found a niche with chewable products. Yet all, including GW Pharmaceuticals, must be considered speculative investments.
That's because pot is a nascent, developing market. On top of that, there's a big unanswered question -- what about the legal status? Yes, medical and/or recreational weed is now legal in a few states, but marijuana is still unambiguously illegal on the federal level. The current administration has indicated it'll get tougher on enforcement, although we haven't yet seen any action. It's too early to tell which way this smoke will blow.
High Times Holding shouldn't be caught in any downdraft. It's a media business, and although it touches the actual business of pot (it created and organizes the annual Cannabis Cup trade show/competition), it doesn't appear to run afoul of drug laws. So even if the hand of law comes down and smacks pot-laced companies such as Axim and Medical Marijuana, High Times Holding should survive.
That security is exceptional among the current crop of "green" stocks. In addition, as a media company, High Times Holding will be unique in its group. And since High Times has been in print for over 40 years, it's a brand that resonates in marijuana circles and has much higher recognition than any of its publicly traded pot peers. These factors should make it a prime pick, or at least a go-to safety stock, for those investing in weed.
The resulting publicly traded entity from Origo's acquisition of High Times will likely be worthy of investor interest, as long as its financials aren't revealed to be too dire and its valuations are more or less reasonable. This is certainly a stock worth watching through the haze.