In case you haven't been paying attention, the marijuana industry is turning into a big business before our eyes. Once peddling a taboo product, the legal marijuana industry generated $12.2 billion in sales globally in 2018, and looks to be on track to grow sales by another 38% in 2019 to $16.9 billion. That's according to a report released by the duo of Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics.
With big money flowing into the marijuana industry, pot stocks have to be prepared to expand their production capacity, broaden their product portfolios, and even acquire new or complementary businesses. While some of this can be financed by selling stock, it certainly helps to have a healthy amount of cash on hand.
When it comes to the green -- cash, that is -- no pot stocks have more cash on hand right now than these five.
Canopy Growth: $3.67 billion
This should come as little surprise, but Canopy Growth (NYSE:CGC), the largest marijuana stock in the world by market cap, boasts the most enviable cash and short-term investments position of $3.67 billion, based on its balance sheet from the end of the fiscal third quarter (Dec. 31, 2018).
Where'd all this money come from? Look no further than Constellation Brands' game-changing $4 billion equity stake in Canopy, announced in August and closed and in November of this past year. The maker of Modelo and Corona beer had been looking for a way to dip its toes into the high-growing cannabis industry, and prior to its $4 billion investment had directly or indirectly invested in Canopy two separate times. Following closure, Constellation now owns a 37% equity stake in Canopy Growth, and it could up its stake to 56% if warrants that were also received with the investment deal are exercised in the future.
For its part, Canopy Growth plans to use its small fortune to make complementary acquisitions, broaden its product portfolio, and enter the lucrative U.S. market. In mid-January, Canopy Growth was awarded a hemp production and processing license in New York State, and announced plans to invest up to $150 million in developing a processing plant in the Empire State. Also, last month, it announced the $3.4 billion cash-and-stock buyout of vertically integrated dispensary operator Acreage Holdings, which is contingent on the United States legalizing marijuana.
In short, Canopy plans to remain aggressive with its cash hoard.
Cronos Group: $1.82 billion
The only other pot stock with more than $1 billion of cash and cash equivalents in its coffers is Cronos Group (NASDAQ:CRON). Although it ended its most recent quarter with less than $25 million in cash on its balance sheet, the transformative equity investment from Altria closed in March, dramatically padding its pockets.
In December, tobacco giant Altria announced that it'd be investing $1.8 billion into Cronos for a non-diluted 45% equity stake. As with the Constellation-Canopy deal described above, Altria is also privy to warrants that, if executed, could bolster its equity stake to 55%. With Altria facing a precipitous decline in cigarette shipping volume, it's hoping that its investment in Cronos will yield new products, faster top-line growth, and a healthy return on its investment.
As for Cronos Group, it desperately needed this capital. With close to 120,000 kilos of peak annual capacity, the company has fallen well behind a number of its peers in terms of production potential. Further, it has a production or distribution presence in a mere four countries outside of Canada, which doesn't give Cronos much room for error if dried cannabis oversupply and commoditization occur with dried flower in our neighbor to the north. This suggests that while Cronos is rolling in the dough now, it'll need to put this money to work very soon if it's to maintain its lofty market cap.
GW Pharmaceuticals: $592 million
The only non-grower on the list is cannabinoid-based drug developer GW Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:GWPH), which had around $592 million in cash at its disposal at the end of its most recent quarter.
In June 2018, GW Pharmaceuticals won the very first approval of a cannabis-derived drug from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The drug in question, Epidiolex, is a cannabidiol-based oral solution that, in multiple phase 3 trials, reduced seizure frequency from baseline by 30% to 40% for two rare types of childhood-onset epilepsy. After running circles around the placebo, it was no surprise that the FDA's panel recommended Epidiolex for approval in a unanimous vote, and that the FDA followed suit with an official approval weeks later.
GW Pharmaceuticals launched Epidiolex with an annual list price of $32,500 at the beginning of November last year. As with any new drug -- even one that has no FDA-approved competition in one of the two approved indications (Dravet syndrome) -- marketing and launch expenses can be burdensome, so it's important for GW Pharmaceuticals to have ample cash on hand to cover near-term losses, as well as fund ongoing research that looks to expand Epidiolex's label. With losses forecast throughout 2019, investors can probably expect GW's current cash position to decline notably by years' end.
Tilray: $518 million
Slotting in fourth in total cash was 2018's bottle rocket pot stock Tilray (NASDAQ:TLRY). Following a $420 million convertible debt offering in October -- I'll pause to allow you to get all of those "420" jokes out -- Tilray was able to significantly boost its cash balance to around $518 million.
Why the need for all this cash? Well, for starters, Tilray recently announced that it's completely shifting its business strategy. With Wall Street expecting Tilray to focus its attention on the domestic Canadian market, CEO Brendan Kennedy announced that the U.S. and Europe would be its new targets for future investment opportunities. Although these are larger markets than Canada in terms of peak cannabis potential, it's nonetheless a headscratcher to see Tilray change its business strategy in one fell swoop. However, the company does appear to have ample cash on hand to do so.
The other noteworthy aspect of this cash hoard is that it's very much needed with Tilray projected to lose money in 2019 and 2020. Tilray was somewhat late to the game with regard to capacity expansion, and its business strategy shift probably means pushing out cultivation expansion even further. Since it's unclear when Tilray will become profitable, this cash will be leaned on to buffer the company against near-term losses. In other words, like every other pot stock mentioned above, expect this cash value to decline by years' end.
Aurora Cannabis: $379 million
Lastly, Canada's largest projected marijuana producer, Aurora Cannabis (NYSE:ACB), rounds out the list with approximately $379 million in its coffers.
Mind you, Aurora ended its fiscal second quarter with close to $123 million in cash and cash equivalents, but completed a 345 million Canadian dollar convertible equity offering in January, after the fiscal second quarter ended. Inclusive of this offering, but not counting any of the recent $750 million shelf offering, it has approximately $379 million in cash at its disposal.
Then again, it's pretty rare to see Aurora Cannabis use any of its cash. With pretty much each and every acquisition since the beginning of 2018, Aurora has chosen to finance its deals entirely with shares of its common stock. With the exception of the CanniMed deal, which required a little bit of wooing and cash incentive, the $2 billion MedReleaf buyout, the $200 million ICC Labs acquisition, and the roughly $130 million Whistler Medical Marijuana purchase, were all entirely completed using Aurora's stock.
Chances are that Aurora will be predominantly using its cash to push into new international markets, as well as to buffer near-term operating losses. Aurora currently has a production or distribution presence in more countries (24) than any other pot stock, and this is a competitive advantage it'd like to hang on to. That means aggressively laying down the framework to grow and sell medical cannabis overseas.
Remember, folks, cash isn't everything. But it sure is a nice start.