If you were a marijuana stock investor in 2019, chances are you couldn't wait for the year to end. Despite galloping to incredible gains during the first quarter, pot stocks spent the remaining nine months of the year in a precipitous downtrend. When the curtain closed on 2019, most cannabis stock were at or near their yearly, or multiyear, lows.
The good news is that 2020 began a little better for cannabis stocks. Through January, the Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences ETF, a basket fund with four dozen holdings of various weightings, fell just $0.01. That's improvement, considering how badly marijuana stocks had been pummeled of late.
While a handful of cannabis stocks managed to handily outperform last month, there was also no shortage of pot stocks that channeled their inner 2019 and declined by a double-digit percentage. Some of these drops made perfect sense. Aurora Cannabis, HEXO (HEXO 12.95%), and MedMen Enterprises all logged double-digit percentage declines in January, and all three are facing financing concerns, which clearly has investors worried.
However, three other pot stocks that declined by a double-digit percentage last month look to have opened the door to opportunity. While most cannabis stocks still have a lot to prove, these three pot stocks have unique business models or competitive advantages that make them bargains.
MediPharm Labs: Down 24% in January
Maybe the biggest head-scratcher of all the monthly declines was that of extraction-services provider MediPharm Labs (MEDIF -10.49%), which came close to shedding a quarter of its value. I say "head-scratcher" for two key reasons.
First, MediPharm Labs is at the center of the high-margin derivatives movement -- derivatives being alternative consumption options such as edibles and infused beverages. Since derivatives generate much better margins than dried cannabis flower, they're expected to become a necessity in growers' product portfolios. That means MediPharm's ability to take cannabis and hemp biomass and process it for resins, distillates, concentrates, and targeted cannabinoids is imperative to the success of Canadian pot stocks.
Second, MediPharm Labs is one of only a handful of cannabis stocks to have generated a no-nonsense operating profit. Despite having only begun processing operations in November 2018, the company has already delivered two consecutive quarters of profits (through September 2019). In other words, MediPharm has shown that its operating model works.
January's decline appears to be tied to MediPharm's lawsuit against HEXO for the nonpayment of $9.8 million Canadian for the processing and delivery of resins. While I can understand the perceived concern of nonpayment for such a relatively new company, I wouldn't be overly worried, considering MediPharm has locked in fee-based and volume contracts with a number of brand-name growers beyond HEXO and has had little trouble generating a profit thus far. At just 20 times Wall Street's fiscal 2020 profit consensus, MediPharm looks like a serious bargain.
Flowr Corp.: Down 18% in January
Another pot stock that had a downright awful January is Ontario-based small-cap Flowr Corp. (FLWPF 56.25%). Flowr wound up losing 18% of its value after announcing a number of management changes and filing a shelf prospectus that could see the company sell stock, preferred shares, or debt securities totaling up to CA$175 million over a 25-month period.
With regard to the former, management changes usually raise eyebrows because they could lead to a shift in a company's growth strategy. Wall Street and investors like things to be laid out as neatly as possible, and management changes often remove some of that clarity.
Meanwhile, the shelf offering means the strong likelihood that Flowr could dilute its existing shareholders in the future to raise capital for ongoing expansion opportunities.
Despite these negatives, Flowr also offers something that virtually no other grower can -- a focus on premium and ultra-premium weed products. With most growers choosing quantity over quality, Flowr's Kelowna campus in British Columbia has entirely been focused on high-quality pot and on creating the most yield-efficient greenhouse on the planet. According to management, Flowr is targeting as much as 400 grams per square foot (psf) in yield by 2022, which compares with the industry average of between 75 and 125 grams psf. And don't forget, premium pot products have seen virtually no price erosion since adult-use sales began in Canada.
It's certainly a bit tougher to value Flowr, considering it's not producing a lot of weed right now and is expected to be nominally unprofitable in 2020. However, its focus on this higher-margin product, as well as its acquisition of Holigen last year, which will give it access to the burgeoning European medical market, makes Flowr a unique and intriguing bargain.
Planet 13 Holdings: Down 21% in January
January also proved to be a poor month for vertically integrated dispensary operator Planet 13 Holdings (PLNH.F 2.94%), which ended the month lower by about 21%.
Unlike MedIPharm and Flowr, which each had an event or two that could be pinpointed for their January decline, Planet 13 didn't offer such notice. With the exception of announcing its calendar-year customer statistics at the SuperStore in Las Vegas, it was a relatively quiet news month for the company.
Regardless of the reason behind the decline, it's opened the door for investors to get in on one of the most unique multistate operators in the United States. Rather than expand to as many states as possible, Planet 13 is focusing entirely on becoming the go-to cannabis spot for enthusiasts and consumers. Its SuperStore spans 112,000 square feet -- that's larger than the average-sized Walmart and will feature a restaurant, events center, and consumer-facing processing center. In short, Planet 13's SuperStore offers an experience that's unrivaled anywhere in the United States.
Since opening its doors in November 2018, the SuperStore has seen steady upticks in foot traffic, paying customers, and, most importantly, average ticket, with the latter increasing from $79 in November 2018 to $100 per ticket in December 2019. With Planet 13 set to open a second location in Santa Ana, Calif., by the second half of 2020, just minutes from Disneyland, recurring profitability looks set to become the new norm.