Here's a quick cannabis pop quiz for you: Which of the five biggest Canadian cannabis producers by market cap has delivered the best stock performance so far in 2019? If you answered Aphria (NYSE:APHA), pat yourself on the back.
However, don't get too excited about Aphria beating its rivals. Its stock price is still in negative territory. But is Aphria now a marijuana stock to seriously consider buying?
Aphria's crown jewel
The big Canadian cannabis producers aren't profitable. None of them beat analysts' expectations in their latest quarter. Except for one -- Aphria.
How did Aphria manage to deliver strong quarterly results while its peers couldn't? CC Pharma, the German medical cannabis distributor that the company acquired earlier this year, has turned out to be its crown jewel. Three-quarters of Aphria's net revenue in its fiscal 2020 first quarter was generated by CC Pharma.
Some might complain that CC Pharma's distribution revenue in Q1 slipped from the previous quarter. However, Aphria explained that this drop stemmed from "a change in business strategy" that was made because of changes in Germany's reimbursement model for medical cannabis. Although this strategy change resulted in lower revenue, it boosted earnings.
Look for CC Pharma to continue to be Aphria's crown jewel in the future. The company projects full-year fiscal 2020 net revenue will be between 650 million and 700 million in Canadian dollars. CC Pharma is expected to contribute a little over half of total net revenue. If you're looking for a differentiating factor that makes Aphria a better pick than most of its peers, CC Pharma definitely makes the short list.
There are several reasons to think that Aphria is in a good position for success beyond its CC Pharma operations. The retail environment in Canada should improve as Ontario and other provinces add more retail cannabis stores. Aphria interim CEO Irwin Simon said in the company's Q1 conference call that "the opportunities for us in the retail market with additional stores opening up is tremendous."
Aphria also should be poised to win in the Canadian cannabis derivatives market. The company is all set to begin shipping its first products. CFO Carl Merton estimates that vapes will eventually make up between 20% and 30% of the total adult-use recreational marijuana market in Canada with 10% to 20% split among cannabis-infused beverages, edibles, and other new products. That's a substantial additional market opportunity that's just getting cranked up.
Don't overlook Aphria's international growth opportunities outside of CC Pharma, either. In particular, Aphria could expand into the U.S. CBD market in the not-too-distant future. Simon said in the Q1 call that Aphria is "talking to multiple partners in regards to strategic opportunities."
In the meantime, Aphria remains a top player in the German medical cannabis market. It also has momentum in Latin American and Caribbean markets.
Sealing the deal
If Aphria's crown jewel and its growth opportunities aren't enough to make the stock a buy, perhaps its valuation could seal the deal. Aphria's shares trade at less than seven times sales. That's only a fraction of its major rivals' price-to-sales multiples.
Aphria has the lowest market cap of the big five Canadian cannabis producers. But it claims the third-highest production capacity. It ranks first in international sales (thanks largely to CC Pharma). And, as we just saw, it has the lowest valuation based on sales.
Is Aphria stock a buy? It depends. Marijuana stocks are too volatile for many investors. Aphria certainly still faces plenty of risks, including the possibility that the retail headwinds in Canada could persist longer than anticipated. However, for aggressive investors looking to profit from the global cannabis boom, Aphria looks like one of the most attractive pure-play stocks on the market right now.