If you're planning to spend $1.8 billion on a company, you definitely want to have good reasons for doing so. Altria (NYSE:MO) has such plans, announcing in December its intention to buy a 45% stake in Canadian marijuana producer Cronos Group (NASDAQ:CRON).
The tobacco giant also has some great reasons it wants to invest in Cronos Group. During Altria's fourth-quarter earnings conference call, the company's executives highlighted several of those reasons. And three of them appear to be great reasons for regular investors to consider buying shares of Cronos, too.
1. Huge growth potential
Altria's executives mentioned the huge growth potential for the cannabis industry several times during the company's Q4 call. Of course, Altria's focus is on gaining exposure to new growth opportunities outside the tobacco industry to diversify its revenue sources. But gaining this kind of exposure to high-growth markets and diversifying more is also a good idea for investors that aren't multibillion-dollar corporations.
Ask five experts about just how big the global cannabis market will be, and you'll probably get five very different numbers. However, you can expect those figures to be big. Really big. It's not unrealistic to expect that the market could exceed $100 billion and perhaps much more than that over the next decade.
There's an old saying that "a rising tide lifts all boats." That adage is true -- and the rising tide of the marijuana boom will almost certainly lift Cronos much higher. Cronos Group is already a major player in the global cannabis market. It claims the fourth largest market cap among marijuana stocks. Cronos Group has operations in Canada, Germany, Poland, Australia, Israel, and Latin America.
Altria CEO Howard Willard said Cronos presents a "unique" opportunity for his company to be part of a fast-growing market. Cronos might not be quite as unique for regular investors -- there are plenty of other solid marijuana stocks on the market -- but it looks like a good alternative for profiting over the long run from the cannabis industry's growth.
2. Cronos Group's growth will accelerate
Cronos Group's revenue soared 186% year over year in its last reported quarter. But Willard said Cronos' growth will accelerate.
Willard doesn't have to be Nostradamus to make that prediction. The Canadian recreational marijuana market should take off in 2019. Medical marijuana markets in other countries should also expand significantly.
But Willard's comments indicated that Altria's relationship with Cronos should add fuel to the fire for the marijuana producer's growth and "help Cronos realize its significant growth potential." He's probably right.
Cronos Group should be able to expand production capacity more quickly and move more heavily into global markets thanks to the cash it's getting from Altria. Gaining access to expertise from a company that knows a thing or two about building successful brands across the world and dealing with highly regulated markets should also be a big plus.
For investors who wondered if it was too late to get on the Cronos bandwagon, the company's relationship with Altria should help answer the question with a firm "no." Even though Cronos Group has grown rapidly, it's just getting started.
3. New types of products on the way
Perhaps the most intriguing comment from Willard in Altria's Q4 call related to the types of products Altria and Cronos would launch. Willard said that "there are opportunities really across the world in a variety of product categories, both recreational and medicinal, that would involve [Cronos'] entering new product forms and developing new products and new product brands."
He didn't provide any details on what types of products Cronos might sell, but Willard added that Altria hasn't "restricted our thinking." His statement appears to hint at Cronos getting into a wide range of cannabis-infused products.
This possibility presents yet another reason for investors to consider Cronos. There are multiple huge industries that cannabis could disrupt, from beverages to consumer wellness products to veterinary products. With Altria at its side, Cronos should have the resources needed to compete in any or all of these markets over time.
One fly in the ointment
While most of the discussion in Altria's Q4 conference call about Cronos was positive, there was one potential fly in the ointment for some investors. Willard said that Altria's 2019 guidance "assumes little to no earnings or cash contributions" from Cronos Group.
The reality is that Cronos Group continues to lose money. Although the company's revenue should skyrocket in 2019 and beyond, it remains to be seen how long it will take for Cronos to become consistently profitable. That's problematic for conservative investors who prefer to see strong earnings with stocks they buy. Investing in Cronos Group requires a more aggressive style and a long-term focus that spans several years.