"Thanks" to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, all of us are living in a world that's suddenly gone topsy-turvy. For marijuana investors, last week saw a set of developments that at times seemed contradictory and counterintuitive.

Two formerly high-flying cannabis companies, Canopy Growth (CGC -1.25%) and Aurora Cannabis (ACB), made moves of retrenchment and desperation rather than opportunity. Meanwhile, it was a relatively small player, Aphria (APHA), that reported the sector's big feel-good news, delivering a bottom-line profit rare for the industry.

Smoke emanating from a cannabis bud

Image source: Getty Images.

Canopy Growth cuts, and Aurora attempts to avoid de-listing

These are difficult times for any company. They are especially challenging for marijuana businesses, many of which were losing money habitually and struggling to stay afloat well before the coronavirus hit. Still, it was a bit unnerving to witness the save-the-ship efforts undertaken by Canopy Growth and Aurora last week.  

Canopy announced a set of restructuring measures, which basically consist of shutting down certain operations in various corners of the world where it's active. The lights will go out on its facilities in South Africa and the tiny nation it surrounds, Lesotho, as well as other growth/production assets in Colombia, the U.S. (a hemp farm it operates in upstate New York), and its native Canada (an indoor production facility in Saskatchewan). 

All told, Canopy Growth will let go of around 85 employees and book 700 million Canadian ($500 million) to CA$800 million ($571 million) in pre-tax charges for these moves. At the end of the press release announcing them, the company wrote "[h]ere's to future growth." That's a hopeful and optimistic conclusion, but it'll take more than a handful of shutdowns to stanch this company's string of losses. 

As for Aurora, its share price will soon zoom higher by a factor of 12! But this won't be for good reasons; lately, its shares haven't been meeting the New York Stock Exchange's minimum price requirement for listing (this is what happens when your stock slides below $1 per share and stays there). So, the company is doing a 12-for-1 reverse share split.

That's a relatively neat and painless way to satisfy the NYSE's listing requirement, but it's not going to inspire much confidence in the company or its prospects -- which have grown dimmer in recent times. 

Compounding that, Aurora is also going to the markets once again to raise capital, floating $350 million in an at-the-market stock issue. So the company will, not for the first time, dilute existing shareholders. The feeling here is of a desperate business waving a giant HELP! sign to investors.

Aphria lands in the black

The good news for cannabis investors last week came from Aphria, which flipped into positive territory on the bottom line in its Q3 of fiscal 2020.

The period saw the company reap net revenue of just over CA$144 million ($103 million), for a sturdy 20% improvement over the previous quarter. Better, gross profit rose by nearly 51% to almost CA$60 million ($43 million), and best of all, the company netted a profit -- CA$5.7 million ($4.1 million) -- against the Q2 net loss of CA$7.9 million ($5.6 million).

Aphria is doing a fine job boosting its sales despite downward pressure on recreational marijuana retail prices. It's also getting good mileage out of CC Pharma, a medical marijuana distributor in Germany that has become a crucial revenue source for the company.

The "but" in this otherwise encouraging story is that Aphria is withdrawing its guidance for the full fiscal year. However, that's rather normal for publicly traded companies because of the tremendous economic uncertainty that's arisen from the coronavirus outbreak. 

All thing considered, though, Aphria posted good numbers for its Q3. Meanwhile, its cash and equivalents position at quarter-end (CA$515 million, or $368 million) provides some security for a downturn. The company's stock ended the week over 12% higher, and while that reaction may be a bit optimistic -- the net profit was only $4 million-plus, after all -- Aphria is looking like one of the better cannabis stocks just now.