Investors have done their best to capitalize on cannabis by looking closely at marijuana stocks. Aurora Cannabis (NYSE:ACB) (TSX:ACB) has sought to make it even easier for U.S. investors to buy its shares by arranging to have its shares listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Beginning tomorrow, Oct. 23, Aurora will join the elite group of cannabis companies whose shares trade on major U.S. exchanges.
Getting ready for the increased exposure that a NYSE listing brings takes time and effort, and Aurora Cannabis hasn't wasted any time. In the past week, the Canadian marijuana company has made a number of interesting moves, and each of them says something about Aurora's future plans.
1. Highlighting Canada's Cannabis Day
On Oct. 17, retail sales of cannabis products in Canada became legal. Aurora celebrated the move, calling out the fact that the Great White North became the first country among the Group of 20 to legalize recreational marijuana, making it what Aurora called "the world leader in cannabis public policy, innovation and acceptance."
For Aurora, in particular, the move gave the company a chance to highlight its two-part strategy. Aurora reaffirmed its commitment to remain Canada's leading licensed producer of medicinal cannabis, setting a goal to make medical marijuana available across the country at affordable prices and in fair ways. At the same time, though, the company is proud to release consumer products under both the Aurora and MedReleaf brands, and it'll be interesting to see how sales go in the future.
2. Aurora heads Sky-ward
At this point in the evolution of the cannabis industry, growth is essential. That's what made it so important that on Oct. 17, Aurora announced that that the Aurora Sky facility at Edmonton International Airport had received its sales license from Health Canada.
The move dramatically increases the availability of cannabis for all the markets in which Aurora is aiming to meet consumer demand. The 800,000-square-foot facility is expected to produce 100,000 kilograms of cannabis annually once it reaches full capacity, and its location makes distribution far easier. Moreover, with Aurora also getting Health Canada approval allowing it to sell softgel capsules from its Quebec location, the company sees itself ramping up production as quickly as possible to capitalize on the current growth opportunities in the cannabis market.
3. Aurora cleans up its capital structure
Up-and-coming companies often have to entice investors by adding equity kickers to their debt offerings. Aurora did exactly that when it issued convertible bonds late last year, offering a 6% interest rate.
In the bonds, Aurora kept the right to force investors to accept stock if its share price stayed above $9 for 10 straight trading days. That happened as of Oct. 16, and so the company announced it would exercise its rights and cash out investors. That's not bad news for bondholders, as they're entitled to convert at an effective price of $6.50 per share -- well below the stock's current price. The move will create modest dilution, but it also eliminates some debt, giving Aurora greater financing flexibility for the future.
4. Aurora sells off some of its own marijuana holdings
Aurora Cannabis isn't just a marijuana company. It also has stakes in other players in the industry. In particular, Aurora took a nearly 18% stake in Green Organic Dutchman Holdings (NASDAQOTH:TGODF) in a private placement in January 2018, giving it both stock and warrants to buy additional shares in the future. Aurora also obtained the right to take as much as 51% ownership of Green Organic Dutchman on the achievement of certain milestones.
However, Aurora chose not to exercise those rights when the first milestone was met, signaling a change in strategy from what most investors in the two companies were expecting. Then, on Oct. 18, Aurora filed an early warning report with Canadian securities regulators, announcing that it had sold off almost 5.8 million shares of Green Organic Dutchman. That left Aurora with about 33.9 million Green Organic Dutchman shares, but many saw the move as the beginning of what could become a more complete divestiture of the position. The sales put about CA$32.9 million into Aurora's cash coffers, but for marijuana investors, the decision was a red flag that made some question the viability of the hundreds of small companies jockeying for position in the cannabis sector.
Aurora Cannabis will get a lot of attention when it lists its shares on the New York Stock Exchange on Oct. 23. But smart investors can't afford to ignore the events that have led up to this momentous occasion. Aurora still has to demonstrate that its business model and strategies for growth are sound, and shareholders are counting on its success in growing its business to help justify the big gains that Aurora stock has already enjoyed.