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Is Aurora Cannabis a Buy?

By Keith Speights – Updated Apr 10, 2019 at 1:35PM

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It's been a tremendous winner in 2019 and over the past few years. But can Aurora Cannabis keep the momentum going?

How long would it take for a stock to deliver a 50% gain for you to consider it a winner? Some might say five years. Others would like a three-year big return. But what would you think about a stock that has soared over 50% in just two months and is up more than 730% in less than five years?

Aurora Cannabis (ACB -1.64%) is such a stock. Most investors would readily conclude that the Canadian marijuana grower has been a big winner. But you've no doubt heard it plenty of times: Past performance isn't necessarily indicative of future results. Is Aurora Cannabis a stock to buy now? 

Marijuana leaf on top of $100 bill

Image source: Getty Images.

All the reasons to hate Aurora Cannabis

There are several reasons to really dislike -- perhaps even hate -- Aurora Cannabis. My colleague Sean Williams listed Aurora as the No. 1 popular marijuana stock that he wouldn't buy with free money. One key reason Sean gave is the company's dizzying pace of dilution of its stock. And his concern is legitimate.

Aurora has issued new shares like it's going out of style. Just look at the stock's performance in 2018. Aurora's share price tanked 35%. Horrible, right? But Aurora's market cap actually soared by 60%. The big discrepancy came as a result of (drum roll, please)... dilution. 

This dilution has stemmed from Aurora Cannabis' frantic scramble to acquire other companies as fast as it could. That provides yet another reason why some investors might be leery of the stock. Plenty of companies in plenty of industries have gone on shopping sprees only to run into major problems trying to integrate all of them. Aurora Cannabis could easily become another member of that club.

I've expressed skepticism about some of Aurora's deals. My concern is that the company could be too hasty in some of its acquisitions and overpaying for what it's getting. 

But another reason to be negative about Aurora Cannabis is the dealmaking that it hasn't made. Unlike several of its peers, Aurora has yet to form a tight relationship with a major payer outside the cannabis industry. That could end up haunting the company as its rivals have more money to invest in expansion and partners with the expertise to help them build successful consumer brands globally.

On a related note, Aurora is still thinking about its approach for moving into the U.S. hemp market. Meanwhile, Canopy Growth has secured a hemp license in New York state and plans to build a major hemp production facility there this year. Tilray recently announced that it's acquiring the world's largest hemp foods company, with products sold in over 16,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada. Aurora's sluggishness could put the company at a significant disadvantage to its top rivals.

There's also that tiny matter of valuation. Aurora Cannabis' market cap of around $7.5 billion assumes a tremendous amount of growth is on the way in the next few years. Anything that derails the company's growth prospects could cause its stock to plunge. 

Check out the latest earnings call transcripts for companies we cover.

... And a whole lotta love

Of course, there's a lot to like (and for some, even love) about Aurora Cannabis. You can put those tremendous growth prospects at the top of the list.

Aurora Cannabis executives sometimes toss out a potential global cannabis market of $150 billion or more. That's actually on the low end of some projections. Remember, the potential exists for cannabis to disrupt several multibillion-dollar markets, including beverages, sleep-aid drugs, and animal health products.

The companies that will succeed in the global cannabis industry will need to have a large production capacity and solid international distribution channels. Aurora Cannabis has both.

Aurora's production capacity already ranks among the top two in the industry. But it's on track to jump to the No. 1 spot. It should be noted that Aurora's acquisitions have been key to its rapid buildup of production capacity.

The company is also ahead of many of its rivals in establishing international operations. Aurora has a presence in 24 countries spanning five continents. The company has a leading market share in European and Latin America medical marijuana markets. 

For Aurora Cannabis to double its share price, the company would need to be able to generate annual sales in the ballpark of at least $2.5 billion. If the global marijuana market indeed reaches $150 billion, that means Aurora only needs to capture around 1.7% of the market for its stock to double. That doesn't seem like too big of a stretch.

Which emotion to second?

So are the reasons to hate Aurora Cannabis greater than the reasons to love the stock or vice versa? There's merit on both sides of the argument.

My view is that Aurora Cannabis very well could continue to be a big winner over the long run. But there are marijuana stocks that have outperformed Aurora in the past and will probably perform better in the future, too. I don't see Aurora Cannabis as a terrible stock. However, I think there are even better marijuana stocks to buy right now.

Keith Speights has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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