There are plenty of famous battles between small and big combatants. David versus Goliath. The 300 Spartans versus the massive Persian army at the Battle of Thermopylae. Spud Webb, all five feet and three inches of him, versus Dominique Wilkins in the 1986 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. The common denominator in all of these matchups is that the smaller side won.
But would the underdog prevail in a one-on-one contest between large Canadian marijuana stock Aurora Cannabis (NYSE:ACB) and tiny Village Farms (NASDAQ:VFF)? Here's how Aurora and Village Farms stack up against each other -- and which stock is the better pick for investors.
The case for Aurora Cannabis
Although Aurora Cannabis is now one of the two biggest marijuana growers in Canada, the company has viewed itself as something of an underdog. The company's Chief Corporate Officer Cam Battley recently stated that Aurora is "a come-from-behind story" due to it being late to the party in securing a license to grow medical cannabis in Canada. Battley thinks, though, that his company now has "an insurmountable lead" over its rivals.
His perspective stems from Aurora's frantic pace of acquisitions. The company acquired CanniMed Therapeutics earlier this year. In May, Aurora announced its biggest deal of all with the buyout of MedReleaf (NASDAQOTH:MEDFF). Thanks to these acquisitions and its own expansion efforts, Aurora is on track to be able to produce around 570,000 kilograms of cannabis annually by early 2019.
This capacity is one reason why Aurora is poised to become one of the biggest winners from Canada's legalization of recreational marijuana. Another is that the company is in great shape for the retail market thanks to its stake in and partnership with Alcanna (formerly Liquor Stores NA), which operates 229 retail liquor stores in western Canada.
Aurora Cannabis also should have good opportunities in the global medical marijuana market. The company's capacity helps on this front, but its access to capital is also important. Aurora already has a good start in its international efforts, with its German subsidiary Pedanios and joint venture in Australia.
The biggest market of all, though, is in the U.S. Although Aurora could face delisting from the Toronto Stock Exchange right now if it moved into the U.S. market, there's a possibility that federal laws could change in the U.S. that would remove that obstacle. If that happens, Cam Battley said that Aurora is "poised and ready to enter the U.S. market in a big way very fast."
The case for Village Farms
Village Farms focused exclusively on the produce business, growing greenhouse tomatoes, bell peppers, and cucumbers, until last year. But the company formed a joint venture in 2017 with Emerald Health Therapeutics (NASDAQOTH:EMHTF) that got Village Farms into the cannabis business.
That joint venture, Pure Sunfarms, leases a 1.1-million-square-foot facility from Village Farms. Last week, Pure Sunfarms obtained permission from Health Canada to expand cannabis production to 225,000 square feet of the facility.
Village Farms believes that Pure Sunfarms is positioned to be one of the lowest-cost producers of cannabis in Canada. That could make the company an attractive supply partner for larger marijuana growers needing additional capacity to meet the flood of demand anticipated in the country after the recreational cannabis market opens in October.
The next big step for the company is to secure a selling license. Village Farms expects this will occur sometime this summer. Pure Sunfarms also plans to convert more of the large facility to produce cannabis. Village Farms projects that the joint venture could grow up to 52,000 kilograms of cannabis by 2019 and 75,000 kilograms annually by 2020.
Buying Village Farms stock could give investors one of the best values in the Canadian cannabis industry in one way. Village Farms' market cap is less than $220 million. With the company laying claim to half of Pure Sunfarms, there aren't many marijuana growers trading at a lower price-to-capacity level.
Better marijuana stock
Does little beat big in this contest? I don't think so.
It's likely that Village Farms will enjoy strong sales growth in the first year or two after legalization of recreational cannabis goes into effect in Canada. However, it could be a different story when supply catches up with and surpasses demand. I look for smaller marijuana growers like Village Farms to hit a brick wall at that point.
Aurora Cannabis could be headed for tougher times as well down the road. It's the better pick between these two. However, Aurora will need the global cannabis market to ramp up quickly to avoid a letdown once the supply glut in Canada arrives. I think Aurora could generate good returns for a while, but the long run is still murky in my view.