What does the top marijuana grower in the world do with a cash stockpile of more than $4 billion? Sit on it? Not a chance.
Canopy Growth Corporation (CGC -2.76%) announced last week that big alcoholic-beverage maker Constellation Brands (STZ 0.55%) had invested another $4 billion in the company. Canopy's executives weren't bashful about stating what they would likely do with a significant chunk of that money.
In Canopy Growth's quarterly conference call, chairman and co-CEO Bruce Linton mentioned the possibility of the company acquiring a bottling operation in Canada and greenhouses in other countries. He also stated that Canopy "will probably find a little down-on-their-luck biotech company." I think Insys Therapeutics (INSY) is an intriguing acquisition candidate that could check off some boxes for Canopy.
Definitely down on its luck
Insys definitely fits Linton's description of down on its luck. The biotech's share price is down 20% so far in 2018 and nearly 78% over the last three years.
The biggest challenge for Insys has been that sales of its top product Subsys have been sinking like a brick. Subsys is a transmucosal immediate-release fentanyl (TIRF) drug. TIRFs are opioids and have fallen out of favor among physicians and patients due to the opioid epidemic in the U.S.
Insys does have another product, though. The company launched its first cannabinoid drug Syndros in July 2017. Momentum for Syndros has been very sluggish so far: Insys reported sales of only $1 million in its Q2 results announced earlier this month.
However, Insys' bad luck could be changing. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has been investigating Insys since late 2013 over its past sales and marketing practices related to Subsys. Insys announced on Aug. 8, 2018 that it had reached an agreement in principle with the DOJ to settle the civil and criminal investigation for $150 million over five years. Also, for the first time in seven quarters, Subsys gained quarter-over-quarter market share in Q2.
A good fit?
Of course, there are plenty of beaten-down biotechs out there. What makes Insys a good fit for Canopy Growth?
The most obvious factor is that Insys is focused on cannabinoid drug development. That's an area of interest for Canopy, which recently closed its acquisition of Canopy Health Innovations. In the announcement about the completion of the deal, Canopy president and co-CEO Mark Zekulin stated that the company's vision was "to create evidence-based cannabis formulations and delivery mechanisms that will serve patients worldwide."
Insys could arguably help Canopy achieve that vision. The biotech has several clinical studies in progress evaluating cannabinoid drugs in treating various diseases. Insys claims two high-tech cannabinoid manufacturing facilities in Arizona that have passed multiple Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspections.
The price tag for buying Insys wouldn't be a stretch for Canopy. Insys' current market cap is less than $570 million. Even at a 30% premium, Canopy should easily be able to fund an acquisition if it wanted to do so, thanks to the influx of cash from Constellation.
Then there are the hints made in the company's conference call. Constellation Brands CEO Rob Sands said during the call that "strategic priorities beyond Canada include the U.S." When directly asked about expanding into the U.S., Bruce Linton reiterated that Canopy would "do everything that is federally lawful to be in a market," adding that, "we think there are mechanisms of action we can take that we're working through."
Linton wouldn't elaborate on any specific plans, saying that he'd prefer to be "coy" on the topic. Attempting to enter the U.S. via FDA-approved cannabinoids is certainly a "federally lawful" approach. And Insys has already successfully navigated the FDA approval process twice -- one of those times with a cannabinoid.
At best, a maybe
But would Canopy Growth actually buy Insys Therapeutics? I think it's a maybe, at best.
There's no question that Canopy wants to move into the U.S. It's also clear from Bruce Linton's comment that the company is likely to acquire a biotech. However, Canopy isn't necessarily looking for a biotech in the U.S. Also, the company could be more interested in a smaller biotech than Insys.
For now, the idea of a Canopy-Insys deal is mere speculation. But Canopy has plenty of money to spend -- and the company appears to be highly motivated to spend it. We'll probably see relatively soon exactly where some of those billions will go.