Aurora Cannabis (ACB 3.94%) released its fourth-quarter results on Sept. 22 and they were yet another disappointment, with the company reporting a loss of 1.9 billion Canadian dollars for the period as impairment charges of CA$1.8 billion weighed heavily on its financials. Net revenue of CA$72.1 million also came in lower than the CA$75.5 million it reported in the third quarter. Aurora's share price is, unsurprisingly, down on the results, and is now trading around its 52-week lows.
While it would be easy to dismiss the stock as a bad buy given another poor quarterly performance, let's take a look at some of the positives and see whether it is worth taking a chance on Aurora today at its reduced price, or if it's a stock you're better off selling once and for all.
Can Aurora reverse its fortunes?
One of the reasons investors may be a bit optimistic about the company's future is that it has a new CEO in place. In September, Aurora announced that Miguel Martin would be taking over as CEO from Michael Singer. Singer, who is executive chairman, assumed the position after the resignation of Terry Booth in February. Martin has 25 years of experience in consumer packaged goods. He came over from Reliva when Aurora completed the acquisition of that hemp business on May 28.
With Martin in his new role, Aurora is already looking at a new focus: premium products, including vapes, which should help improve margins and overall profitability. The company's value brand, Daily Special, has been successful in generating sales, but Martin noted that given an increase in competition with other value products in the market, "it just becomes a diminishing return."
Martin noted that in Q4, 62% of Aurora's net consumer revenue was thanks to Daily Special -- a significant change from the previous quarter, when that percentage was only 35%.
But despite the value brand accounting for more sales and Aurora reporting a dreadful loss in Q4, the company did make progress in its adjusted EBTIDA, or earnings before income, taxes, depreciation, and amortization. Aurora's adjusted EBITDA loss in Q4 totaled CA$34.6 million, compared with the CA$50.4 million loss it incurred in the third quarter. If the company can squeeze out more gross profit from a focus on premium products, there's potential there for the Alberta-based company to get even closer to reaching its goal.
As recently as June, management said Aurora was on track to achieve positive adjusted EBITDA by the first quarter of fiscal 2021. But by September, it had pushed that goal out to the second quarter of fiscal 2021.
Will reaching positive adjusted EBITDA be enough to win back investors?
It's been a rough year for Aurora: Revenue in Q4 last year was CA$98.9 million, 37% higher than in this past period. And while a positive adjusted EBITDA number would definitely get investors excited that the company is making progress, let's not forget this is primarily a growth stock. Investors buy pot stocks typically because they offer attractive growth prospects, and that's not possible without stronger sales numbers along the way.
Martin stated that Q1 2021 will be the first quarter in which Aurora is completely divested of its noncore subsidiaries, meaning its revenue will now exclusively be made up of net cannabis revenue. In Q4, net cannabis revenue was only CA$67.5 million, and Martin's not expecting a strong start to the first quarter of fiscal 2021, projecting sales to come in between CA$60 million and CA$64 million.
As sales continue to fall, Aurora will have a hard time getting investors on board and reaching a positive adjusted EBITDA.
Aurora still isn't a buy
Investors need to be careful about buying shares of companies in the middle of transitions. There's never any guarantee how they'll go, except that typically, they're not smooth rides. And that means there could be some tough times still ahead for Aurora investors. The worst, unfortunately, may still be to come. Even if the company hits breakeven with its adjusted EBITDA, that might not be enough to get investors excited, especially if its sales continue to struggle.
In the past year, shares of Aurora have fallen more than 90% while the Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences ETF (HMLSF 3.56%) is down a more modest 52% -- and even that pales next to the S&P 500's positive 13% returns.
Anytime you're investing in a stock that's cratered by more than 90%, you should have a very compelling reason to do so. Right now, there just isn't one for Aurora, which is why the stock is still a hard sell today, especially with many other great cannabis companies to invest in.