For Aurora Cannabis (NASDAQ:ACB), 2019 was a horrible, rotten, no-good, very bad year. The Canadian marijuana stock plunged more than 56%, much worse than most of its top rivals.
But at least one analyst thinks that Aurora could potentially have a "fantastic 2020." Pablo Zuanic with Cantor Fitzgerald even projects a one-year price target for Aurora that's double the stock's current level. Here's why Zuanic believes this beaten-down pot stock could see better days ahead.
Two ingredients for Aurora's success
Zuanic suggests that Aurora could do two things that would cause the stock to skyrocket.
First, he'd like for Nelson Peltz to take a more active role. Aurora brought the billionaire strategic advisor on board last year to help line up partners from outside the cannabis industry. In particular, Zuanic thinks that Peltz, a well-known activist investor, should push for Aurora to exercise more financial discipline. He also wants Peltz to find a consumer packaged goods (CPG) company that would buy a significant stake in Aurora.
Second, Zuanic wants Aurora to hire a new CEO along the lines of Canopy Growth's (NASDAQ:CGC) incoming CEO, David Klein. Investors reacted positively to Canopy's hiring of Klein, who has served as Constellation Brands' (NYSE:STZ) CFO and as chair of Canopy Growth's board of directors.
Should Aurora check off both of these boxes, Zuanic believes that its stock would at least double. However, he doesn't think everything is sunshine and roses for the company. Despite his general optimism about Aurora, Zuanic cut his one-year price target for the stock by nearly 15% after lowering sales projections for the cannabis producer.
The rest of the story
There are several things that investors need to consider with Cantor Fitzgerald's positive outlook for Aurora. Zuanic has stood out as one of the stock's biggest bulls for a while now. He has expressed more optimistic views about the stock than nearly any other analyst in the past.
While Zuanic wants Peltz to line up a major equity investor from the CPG industry, that's exactly the opposite of what Peltz has advocated in the past. In May 2019, Cam Battley, then Aurora's chief corporate officer, said that Peltz recommended that Aurora avoid a path where it could be gobbled up by a larger company.
However, it's possible that Peltz could change his tune after Aurora's meltdown in 2019. As part of his consulting deal, Peltz received options to buy nearly 20 million shares, with these options vesting on a quarterly basis beginning last year and going through the next three years. Peltz has ample motivation to push for Aurora to take steps that would boost its stock price. A major investment from a big CPG company would almost certainly do just that.
On the other hand, getting a large CPG company to invest lots of money in a cannabis producer is easier said than done. Constellation Brands has lost a boatload of money from its investment in Canopy Growth so far. Other CPG companies could look at Constellation's experience and be reluctant to put much skin in the game at this point.
Spurring Aurora to hire a new CEO could be an easier task. The departure of Cam Battley could be a hint that the company is looking to potentially make a change. In recent months, Battley was more involved with conference calls with analysts than CEO Terry Booth was.
But it doesn't seem necessary for Aurora to bring in a new CEO to exercise more fiscal discipline. The company already announced that it's suspending construction at its Aurora Nordic 2 and Aurora Sun facilities, moves that will reduce capital spending by around $190 million in Canadian dollars.
Will Aurora stock double?
My view is that Aurora Cannabis' shares could double as Zuanic predicts if the company finds a major equity partner and hires a new CEO. I'm skeptical, though, that Aurora will actually achieve the former goal. Neither am I convinced that the company will bring in a new top executive.
However, I do think that 2020 should be a better year for Canadian marijuana stocks, including Aurora, than 2019 was. The retail environment in Ontario is improving slowly but surely. The Cannabis 2.0 marijuana derivatives market should boost sales as well.
The big problem for Aurora is that it remains unprofitable and is likely to have to make dilution-causing moves to raise more cash in the future. While the company's long-term prospects could be great as the global cannabis industry expands, its current challenges could scare away many investors.