There are few, if any, cannabis stocks that garner more attention from investors than Aurora Cannabis (ACB 1.35%) and Canopy Growth (CGC 0.67%). Aurora and Canopy are respectively No. 1 and No. 2 in terms of peak production potential and international presence, and the respective first and 10th most-held stocks on online investment platform Robinhood.
Aurora Cannabis and Canopy Growth have also consistently been among the leaders in terms of quarterly sales. However, with supply issues rearing their head in Canada and a number of cannabis companies contending with inventory writedowns or markdowns, these marijuana mammoths no longer find themselves at the top of the mountain when it comes to sales. Sure, Canopy Growth and Aurora managed $58 million and $57 million in respective net sales in their most recent quarters, but that was outdone by four other cannabis companies.
Aphria: $95.5 million in net sales
Believe it or not, the top of the pecking order, in terms of quarterly sales in the most recent quarter, belongs to Aphria (APHA) -- albeit this title comes with an asterisk.
Aphria generated more than 126 million Canadian dollars in sales ($95.5 million) in its fiscal first quarter, but the vast majority of this revenue came from its pharmaceutical-distribution business and not from its cannabis operations. Aphria acquired this pharmaceutical-distribution business in early January, and it was responsible for CA95.3 million in sales in Q1 2020. Put another way, only a quarter of Aphria's revenue was tied to its cannabis operations, and without its CC Pharma subsidiary, it wouldn't have even made the list.
For fiscal 2020, Aphria has stuck by its forecast of CA$650 million to CA$700 million in full-year sales, with distribution revenue "representing slightly more than half of total net revenue." This suggests a relatively stagnant sales outlook for the lower-margin distribution business throughout the remainder of the company's fiscal year, with an expected surge in marijuana sales in the upcoming quarters. Given the supply issues Canada is contending with, we'll see if Aphria can meet such lofty expectations.
Curaleaf Holdings: $73.2 million
Among U.S. pot stocks, none delivered more in quarterly sales recently than Curaleaf Holdings (CURLF 2.18%). According to the company's third-quarter report, its total managed revenue, which includes sales from its dispensaries, as well as revenue from its managed entities, hit $73.2 million. That's up 33% from the sequential second quarter and is a trend that should continue for the foreseeable future as the multistate operator (MSO) opens new retail locations.
Curaleaf is really no surprise to lead the pack in the U.S. given that it leads all MSOs with 50 open locations. On a pro forma basis -- i.e., with the assumption that all pending acquisitions close -- Curaleaf has the second-highest number of retail licenses and should have a presence in 19 states, which would trail only Acreage Holdings. Curaleaf has been recently focusing on California, Nevada, Florida, and Massachusetts, all of which are or should become states capable of $1 billion or more in annual sales by 2024.
It's also worth noting that Curaleaf's management believes $1 billion in 2020 sales is a real possibility if its acquisitions of Select and Grassroots close fairly soon.
Trulieve Cannabis: $70.7 million
Arguably, the most impressive marijuana stock on the entire list is vertically integrated MSO Trulieve Cannabis (TCNNF -0.73%). A year ago, Trulieve would have seemed an unlikely candidate to outsell either Aurora or Canopy (let alone both) in a quarter.
During the third quarter, the Florida-focused retailer wound up reporting $70.7 million in sales, representing an improvement of 22% from the sequential quarter and 150% on a year-over-year basis. Maybe what was more impressive -- and the reason why I believe it to be the best marijuana earnings report we've seen -- is that Trulieve generated more than $23 million in operating profit without the aid of one-time benefits or fair-value adjustments.
The key to Trulieve's success has been its relatively narrow focus on the Sunshine State. Trulieve has opened 40 dispensaries in Florida, which has allowed the company to successfully focus on branding within the state, as well as keep its expenses down. Though the company will be reserving some capital to expand in California, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, it'll remain focused on retaining its substantive market share in Florida.
Green Thumb Industries: $68 million
Lastly, and continuing a theme of U.S. MSOs outselling their Canadian counterparts, Green Thumb Industries (GTBIF) racked up $68 million in third-quarter sales. This was a near-quadrupling from the year-ago quarter and a sequential improvement of 52%.
Similar to Curaleaf, Green Thumb's rapid sales growth in the third quarter was a function of its push into core markets. GTI, as the company is commonly known, ended the quarter with 32 open dispensaries and primarily saw growth originate from Florida, Illinois, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. Illinois will be a particularly intriguing market for GTI, considering that the Land of Lincoln is opening its doors to recreational weed sales as of Jan. 1, 2020.
Green Thumb is currently sitting on 96 retail licenses which, to my knowledge, ranks it No. 3 among publicly traded MSOs. The company has stuck by its plans to have 35 to 40 open dispensaries by year's end (it has 34 right now). With these new stores opening and more states giving the green light to adult-use pot, Green Thumb could easily continue to outpace both Aurora and Canopy in the sales department.