Every stock you buy comes with a trade-off. You trade the potential for high returns in exchange for taking on greater risk. The best stocks offer the opportunity for tremendous returns but without too much risk.
Finding those kinds of stocks isn't always easy. That's especially true in the cannabis industry, which is only in its infancy. It's quite possible that the most successful stocks of today won't be the big winners 10 years from now.
However, there's one stock that is very likely to be one of the top players in the global cannabis market for a long time to come. In fact, I think that on an overall basis this might be the best marijuana stock on the market. Which stock is it? Constellation Brands (NYSE:STZ).
A big bet with a big potential payoff
Let's first look at Constellation Brands' potential return. In 2017, the alcoholic beverage maker made its first investment in Canadian marijuana producer Canopy Growth (NASDAQ:CGC). Less than a year later, Constellation upped its stake in Canopy to around 38% with another $4 billion investment.
Why such a big bet? Constellation Brands believes that the global retail cannabis market will exceed $200 billion within the next 15 years. It chose Canopy Growth as its partner because of Canopy's global scale and large production capacity.
Constellation projects that Canopy will capture between 30% and 40% of the Canadian marijuana market. But the bigger opportunity is in the U.S. and international markets, where Constellation thinks that Canopy can achieve a market share of at least 5% and possibly as much as 15%.
An important key to success for Constellation and Canopy is their partnership. Canopy has the production capacity and initial relationships in key global markets. Constellation brings expertise in building consumer brands and a strong retail distribution channel. While Constellation wouldn't be a major player in the cannabis industry without Canopy Growth, Canopy wouldn't have as much opportunity to capitalize on its potential without Constellation.
So why shouldn't investors simply buy Canopy Growth instead? Buying Canopy isn't a bad idea. After all, the marijuana producer is set to grow even faster if Constellation's projections are anywhere close to being accurate.
However, Constellation has warrants to increase its stake to own a majority interest in Canopy. You can pretty much bet that if global marijuana markets begin to take off like Constellation thinks they will, Canopy will become a part of Constellation relatively quickly.
Lower risks than most marijuana stocks
But what if the global marijuana market doesn't grow as much as Constellation thinks it will? It would certainly hurt Constellation. But it wouldn't impact the company as much as lower-than-expected growth would for Canopy Growth or any other pure-play marijuana stock.
Constellation Brands' risk is significantly lower than most marijuana stocks because it already has another thriving business. Granted, Constellation's wine and spirits business is struggling, with only minimal year-over-year growth in the last quarter.
However, the company's beer business continues to boom. In the company's Q3 earnings conference call, Constellation's chief operating officer, Bill Newlands, said, "Corona Premier, Corona Familiar, and Modelo Especial achieved winning spots as the top three high-end U.S. beer industry share gainers for the quarter while Constellation's overall beer business was the most significant share gainer in the U.S. beer market during this time frame."
The future for Constellation's beer brands looks bright as well. Thanks to the strong cash flow generated in large part by these brands, Constellation thinks that it will be able to return around $4.5 billion to shareholders through dividends and share buybacks over the next three years. The company also plans to pay down much of the debt it took on to fund the Canopy deal.
While many marijuana stocks still aren't consistently profitable, Constellation Brands has delivered a 28% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in earnings per share over the last five years. And while most marijuana stocks couldn't even dream of giving money back to shareholders, Constellation's dividend yields over 1.8% and continues to grow.
There's a strong case to be made that Canopy Growth is in the best position of any marijuana producer to be the top competitor in the global cannabis market for years to come. That means Constellation Brands will be a top player in the market because of its significant stake in Canopy and the real possibility that it could control Canopy in the not-too-distant future.
There's also a strong case to be made that Constellation Brands is less risky than any other marijuana stock. Pure-play marijuana stocks certainly are riskier than Constellation is. And the other big companies that operate outside of the cannabis industry that have partnered with marijuana producers don't have the track record of recent growth that Constellation has.
Investing involves trade-offs between potential returns and risk. Constellation Brands appears to offer the best trade-off of any marijuana stock on the market right now.