You'll see plenty of comparisons between Aurora Cannabis (NYSE:ACB) and its archrival, Canopy Growth. But how does Aurora stack up against Canopy Growth's partner and largest shareholder, Constellation Brands (NYSE:STZ)?
Aurora and Constellation obviously have very different businesses. Both companies, though, offer ways to invest in growth in the global cannabis industry. Which is the better stock for long-term investors? Here are the main arguments for investing in Aurora and Constellation.
The case for Aurora Cannabis
From the beginning, the primary argument for buying Aurora Cannabis stock has been that the company is likely to be a major player in a global cannabis market that's going to be huge. That's still the main reason for considering investing in Aurora.
Let's first look at the opportunity in the global cannabis market. Estimates for how big this market might become vary, but one of the most conservative projections is that global legal cannabis sales could reach $75 billion by 2030. Other estimates are more optimistic, with Stifel analyst Andrew Carter predicting a $200 billion global cannabis market by 2029.
Can Aurora capture a significant share of this market? You bet. The company is already one of the top two cannabis producers in Canada in terms of market share. Aurora claims the highest production capacity in the industry. Its high-tech growing facilities enable the company to produce cannabis at lower costs than most of its peers.
Aurora also already has a strong presence in international medical cannabis markets. It was one of only three companies to be awarded licenses to cultivate cannabis in Germany, the biggest medical cannabis market outside of North America. In total, Aurora has operations in 24 countries outside of Canada.
Although Aurora can't enter the U.S. marijuana market yet, there's some reason for optimism that barriers to the company could come down in the not-too-distant future. The U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee overwhelmingly voted to pass a bill this past week that would legalize cannabis at the federal level in the U.S.
Aurora's market cap is well off its highs from earlier this year. Positive news with Canada's retail cannabis environment, the country's Cannabis 2.0 cannabis derivatives products market, and/or progress toward the legalization of marijuana in the U.S. could be huge catalysts for the stock.
The case for Constellation Brands
Until 2017, the case for investing in Constellation Brands rested solely on its beverage alcohol opportunities, especially in the U.S. premium beer market. That's still a major component of the argument for buying the stock. However, Constellation also now qualifies as a marijuana stock thanks to its investments in Canopy Growth.
To be sure, alcoholic beverages remain the cornerstone of Constellation's business. The company's brands, led by Corona and Modelo, dominate the U.S. premium beer market. And it's a good market in which to be the leader, with sales for nonpremium and noncraft beers declining in recent years.
Although Constellation's wine and spirits business hasn't been as strong as its premium beer operations, the company thinks that it's on the right track to drive much higher sales growth in the future. Constellation sold more than 30 of its lower-priced wine brands to E. & J. Gallo earlier this year for $1.7 billion. It's now laser-focused on the premium market, which is exactly where the growth prospects (and higher margins) lie.
Then there's the Canopy Growth investment. So far, the Canadian cannabis producer has been a big drag on Constellation's profits. However, Constellation still believes that the global cannabis market will expand significantly and that Canopy will be a top leader in that market.
Constellation currently owns close to 37% of Canopy Growth. It also owns warrants that allow it to significantly boost its stake in the cannabis producer. If Canopy really takes off as the global cannabis market grows, don't be surprised if Constellation winds up owning Canopy Growth outright.
In addition to its growth opportunities in the beverage alcohol and cannabis markets, Constellation offers investors an attractive dividend. Its dividend currently yields nearly 1.7%. The company has increased its dividend payout by more than 140% over the last five years.
My view is that both Aurora Cannabis and Constellation Brands should be big winners over the long run. But Aurora faces an issue in the near-term that Constellation doesn't: the need for additional cash. Aurora could have to resort to raising more capital in ways that dilute the value of existing shares.
I think that Constellation Brands is the better pick right now because it has a consistent revenue stream from its beverage alcohol business along with the opportunity to benefit from rapid growth in the cannabis market through its stake in Canopy Growth.