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- A challenging year ended with another loss this week
- M&A continued to be a key story
- 420 Investor model portfolios have returned -21.8% to 16.6% year-to-date, while the Global Cannabis Stock Index has lost 26.0%
2021 ended with more M&A transaction announcements in what was otherwise a very quiet week.
During the week, I shared these insights with subscribers at 420 Investor:
- Changes to the Global Cannabis Stock Index for January 2022
- Cannabis Sub-Sector Review – 12/23/21
- Model Portfolio Composition 12/23/21
Here are some of this week’s highlights for 420 Investor Focus List names:
- AAWH gave notice to MedMen of its intent to close the transactions contemplated by the Investment Agreement regarding its New York Operations after receiving final approval from the state.
- AYRWF opened its 8th Pennsylvania dispensary.
- CURLF is paying $211 million (cash and a seller’s note) to buy Bloom Dispensaries, which has four dispensaries and two cultivation and processing facilities. Bloom expects 2021 revenue to be approximately $66 million with EBITDA margins in excess of 40%.
- GTBIF announced the acquisition of LeafLine Industries, one of two Minnesota medical cannabis providers, for undisclosed terms.
- TCNNF purchased a dispensary in Tucson, Arizona, its 17th in the state. Former Harvest CEO Steve White was named President.
- VRNOF closed its acquisitions in Connecticut of a dispensary and a cultivation/production facility.
The Global Cannabis Stock Index held the 52-week closing low set on 12/20 but still fell this week, decreasing 3.5% to 32.85:
The index, which lost 34.1% in 2019 and lost 54.9% in 2018 after gaining 91.8% in 2017 and 88.8% in 2016, was up 5.2% in 2020. It lost 26.0% in 2021. It currently includes 42 stocks and ended 2020 at 44.39:
420 Investor offers three model portfolios for subscribers, including two that are long-term focused and fully invested with a goal of beating the Global Cannabis Stock Index, 420 Opportunity and 420 Quality. 420 Opportunity ended the week valued at $90,823, down 2.6%. The model portfolio, down 13.8% in 2021, gained 35.6% in 2020 and has increased 81.7% since April 2014 despite the large loss in the index since then. 420 Quality ended the week at $1226,323, down 2.4% for the week, and was down 21.8% in 2021 after gaining 42.8% in 2020. The model was launched in March 2017 targeting long-term investors seeking to invest in leading cannabis stocks with low portfolio turnover and has gained 152.7% since inception compared to the 59.4% decline in the index since then. Flying High, which is focused on swing trades, ended the week valued at $294,249, down 5.6%. The model portfolio gained 52.7% in 2020 and was up 16.6% in 2021, and the return since inception in late 2013 has been 2842%.
The cannabis sector has continued to evolve through several ups and downs over the past few years. 2021 began by extending on massive gains in Q4 but hit a wall in mid-February, sliding the balance of the year after the market had gotten ahead of itself. Disappointment over the slow pace of federal reforms or the move towards legalization was a factor, but decreasing growth in cannabis sales, regulatory delays in several states and the implosion of the wholesale flower market in California played roles as well. In Canada, while the market has continued to grow, the evolution to derivative products has been slow. Additionally, the largest LPs have lost market share and have been unable to scale thus far.
The bull market that began in March 2020 after the pandemic and the capital crunch that followed the vaping crisis in 2019 appears to be intact for the American cannabis operators, which continue to trade sharply higher than where they traded in the summer of 2020 despite large declines from the peak in February. Looking forward, the outlook appears strong, with the leading companies moving to positive operating cash flow and having increasing access to non-dilutive capital, including debt, mortgages and sale-leasebacks. Several states will be moving from medical-only to adult-use, including New Jersey, New Mexico, Vermont and Connecticut in 2022, New York in 2023 and Virginia in 2024. Several other states could move to legalize for adult-use as well, including Delaware, Florida, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Several states are expanding programs as well, with additional dispensaries ahead for Illinois. Medical-only state Minnesota will be adding flower and edibles in 2022, and Ohio is expanding its program as well. Increasing competition within certain state markets that is weighing on profitability will likely remain a challenge. Further, while many see federal legalization as a positive, this remains a potential risk-factor in my view.
While the stocks of American cannabis companies continue to be held by mainly retail investors, 2021 saw an increase in institutional investment. Another big development has been the growth in AdvisorShares Pure US Cannabis ETF (MSOS), which has broadened the access to cannabis companies for investors that don’t trade OTC stocks. Additionally, a number of ancillary companies have gone public and trade on higher exchanges, offering institutional investors a way to invest in the industry. We have seen several investments into American cannabis companies, mainly by Canadian LPs, but, looking ahead, strategic investment through creative financial structures will likely extend to CPG companies in 2022.
At the federal level, the FDA (or Congress) could provide clarity on CBD regulation. With respect to THC, both Democrats (Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act) and Republicans (States Reform Act) are advancing legislation to legalize cannabis. While this is going to be a long process in my view due to the complexity (varying state regulations, role of FDA, social equity, taxation), this is very different from what the developing cannabis sector faced just a few years ago: potential crackdowns against state legalization. I remain hopeful that Congress can advance small reforms, including expanded research and SAFE Banking. An enhanced financial reform that explicitly permitted companies operating in state-legal cannabis to trade on higher exchanges would be extremely positive.
Beyond America, cannabis legalization continues to proliferate. While Canada remains the largest federally legal cannabis market, many other countries have medical programs, including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay (fully legal) in South America. Mexico has legalized for possession but doesn’t yet have a regulated program, and it could legalize for adult-use as well. Australia’s medical program was slow to start but has gained traction. New Zealand has a medical program as well. In Africa, several countries have legalized medical cannabis. Europe, of course, has seen widespread adoption of medical cannabis. Germany has been slow to develop but could move to legalize for adult-use. Other markets where there is medical cannabis include Denmark, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, and Portugal. The UK and Israel have medical cannabis, and Israel could move to legalize for adult-use. Of course, let’s not forget Jamaica!
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