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The Fine Print in Aurora Cannabis' Deal With Billionaire Nelson Peltz That Should Make Investors Giddy

By Keith Speights - Updated Apr 14, 2019 at 10:41AM

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Aurora's relationship with the billionaire investor could be a bigger win-win proposition than you might think.

Aurora Cannabis (ACB 8.70%) investors were all smiles last week. The Canadian marijuana producer announced that it was bringing billionaire Nelson Peltz on board as a strategic advisor, causing Aurora's share price to pop. Peltz's No. 1 job will be to line up one or more strategic partners for Aurora in key market segments that cannabis is set to disrupt.

But buried in Aurora's press release were some intriguing details about the deal with Peltz. The fine print of this deal revealed some aspects of the billionaire's arrangement with Aurora Cannabis that, if achieved, should have investors more than just smiling -- they should be downright giddy.

Man holding a magnifying glass over a document

Image source: Getty Images.

A vested interest in success

Peltz isn't helping Aurora Cannabis out of the goodness of his heart. The company provided a significant financial incentive for Peltz to line up key strategic partners.

Peltz will receive options to buy nearly 20 million shares of Aurora stock (19,961,754 shares, to be exact) at $10.34 in Canadian dollars (US$7.75) per share. Aurora's share price is more than 25% higher than this strike price, so Peltz is set to make a tidy sum even if the stock doesn't move higher.

However, these options will vest each quarter over a four-year period. The vesting schedule is smart for Aurora in that it aligns Peltz's financial motivation with the company's interest, which is to boost its share price over a longer period and not just temporarily.

But there's one way Peltz can receive his options to buy Aurora stock more quickly. The company stated that the possibility exists for the option vesting schedule to be accelerated. What has to happen for Peltz to get his options faster than planned?

First, Aurora must close "certain defined transactions." No details were provided, but you can expect that those transactions included multiple deals with major companies outside the cannabis industry. Second, the closing price of Aurora's common shares has to be at least CA$31.02 (US$23.25) and additionally CA$41.36 (US$31) for a specified number of trading days. 

In a nutshell, if Nelson Peltz helps Aurora find strategic partners and in turn more than double and then triple its share price for a period of time, he gets his options on a faster timetable. Those are terms that should have every Aurora shareholder cheering, "Run, Nelson, run!"

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

Attainable goals?

Peltz admittedly has mixed results in his past undertakings. He's not a miracle worker. On the other hand, you wouldn't think that he would need to be one to find one or more partners for Aurora.

After all, marijuana is a really hot market right now, with several major beverage and tobacco companies teaming up with Canadian marijuana producers. Aurora Cannabis has a lot to offer, especially its tremendous production capacity and strong international operations. 

But can Aurora stock double and even triple as a result of Peltz's wheeling and dealing? That's a tougher hill to climb.

When alcoholic-beverage maker Constellation Brands bought a 9.9% stake in Canopy Growth in 2017, Canopy's share price jumped more than 40% over the next few weeks. Within a couple of months, Canopy stock had more than doubled.

Last year, Constellation made an even bigger splash with its $4 billion investment in Canopy. The marijuana stock immediately soared over 25% on the news and doubled over the subsequent weeks.

Cronos Group stock also spiked more than 20% the day that a major partnership with tobacco giant Altria was announced in December 2018. Although Cronos' share price gave up most of the gain over the next few weeks, it later rebounded and went on to more than double within a couple of months.

Based on these two examples, it seems quite possible that Aurora's share price could double if Peltz helps the company land a really good partner. Tripling is a different story, though. 

Doing fine without the fine print

Aurora probably could have found a major partner without Peltz. However, there's no denying that he has plenty of connections. With him working on Aurora's behalf, it could speed up the process.

The smart money would be against seeing Peltz receive his options on an accelerated schedule. But if he helps close an attractive deal or two for Aurora, everyone involved should win. 

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

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