Last week in the marijuana industry, news was dominated by the human factor. Several of the most high-profile companies in the business announced significant personnel departures, bringing up questions about the state of their morale and even their long-term viability.
Not all happenings last week in the sector had to do with subtractions, though. One long-germinating acquisition finally closed, giving a noted cannabis company an important new asset.
Tilray's layoffs, and Aurora CEO exits
Although it's not entirely their fault -- we can also blame factors like bureaucratic incompetence and high taxation -- cannabis companies have by and large been money losers for quite some time. And while they've done their best to secure new funds, few companies can stay intact while constantly in the red -- hence several culls in the marijuana industry that were formally announced only last week.
Tilray (TLRY) and Aurora Cannabis (ACB 0.95%) both announced a raft of job cuts. Tilray let go of around 10% of its global workforce, roughly 140 people. This is apparently part of a broader restructuring effort, but as yet details are sparse.
It's essentially the same for Aurora, which at least provided more information about its own program. As part of a set of what it accurately calls "sweeping changes" to its business, the company has released nearly 500 "full-time equivalent staff." Other measures include impairment charges and a writedown of the company's considerable goodwill.
On top of that, Aurora's CEO Terry Booth stepped down, to be replaced on an interim basis by executive chairman Michael Singer. Booth will still be influential to some degree, having been named a senior strategic advisor to the company. He'll also continue to occupy his seat on the board of directors.
Job cuts in the marijuana space are nothing new, of course. We've seen rounds of them before. But two news items on the subject from a pair of name companies within a week is a stark illustration of the struggles of this business, and a reminder of the human cost of those difficulties.
Curaleaf's Select acquisition finally closes
No, it's not your imagination -- deals in the cannabis industry really do take an awfully long time to close. Exhibit A: Curaleaf's (CURLF 1.68%) acquisition of Cura Partners, owner of the Select brand, was finalized last week. That makes it over nine months since Curaleaf's rather straightforward buyout was first announced.
Regardless of speed, Cura Partners/Select is a typically pricey acquisition in the marijuana world. Even after Curaleaf got the terms of the deal modified (and considering it's being paid in stock rather than precious cash), the company is still paying a pretty penny for its new asset.
It'll pony up 55 million of its subordinate voting shares as an upfront payment, with another 40 million-plus on the hook if certain incentives are met. The phase one stock handover was valued at nearly $286 million at the time of said modification; meanwhile, the company's total revenue barely topped $60 million in its most recently reported quarter.
All that said, Cura Partners/Select is one of the better assets to be scooped up by an ambitious cannabis company. Cura Partners booked almost $118 million in sales in 2018, giving it a two-year growth rate of over 1,000%. And the Select brand is a highly visible and clearly popular brand on the market.
Yes, the pot business is growing fast, but even considering this, Cura Partners' growth is impressive -- particularly given the many challenges of the legal marijuana market in its native U.S. The Select brand has obviously found its niche among America's pot cognoscenti. We'll soon see whether Curaleaf can keep at least some of this momentum going.