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Seaport Sees a Sea Change in Marijuana Stock Valuations

Just three months ago, Seaport analyst Brett Hundley was rolling back price targets on Canadian cannabis stocks, cutting forecasts for both sales and EBITDA left and right -- and Hundley was right to do so. Since the analyst began slashing targets, shares of Aphria (APHA) and Hexo (HEXO) (two subjects of the analyst's ire in June) have fallen 10% and 35%, respectively. More broadly (and over a longer time horizon) the Horizons US Marijuana Index ETF has declined 39% from April to today -- against a broader S&P 500 performance that's been basically flat.

And yet, there comes a day that marijuana stock prices get too cheap to ignore, and that day, apparently, was Labor Day 2019.

Seaport Announces a Labor Day Sale

In a report just out entitled "Labor Day Sale", Hundley argues that after the sell-off, it's now "time to buy cannabis stocks" again. His reason:

"Quality cannabis names" are trading at "2020 price-to-sales multiples near 3.0x-4.0x, alongside EV multiples of 7.5x-10.5x against 2020/21 EBITDA expectations." In the analyst's opinion, these valuations have been depressed for several good reasons, including "disappointing and frustrating regulatory developments, delayed profitability expectations, specific compliance/credibility issues, and founder/management upheaval."

And yet, Hundley foresees a "potential for forward regulatory improvements/updates and widening access to capital" that could result in higher valuations going forward. And he further argues that "the [marijuana] space is profitable" already -- albeit only profitable from the perspective of "EBITDA," which considers earnings but not the interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization that generally come along with (and subtract from) them.

Given this continued absence of real profitability, though, are any of these stocks really bargains, even down 39% on average?

3 'Quality Cannabis Names' to Consider

Hundley notes that the valuations on his alleged "quality cannabis names" look attractive when compared to "biotech/pharma" stocks trading "6.0x+ 2020 sales expectations and 15.0x-25.0x 2020/21 EBITDA expectations." But which ones exactly? Let's take a closer look.

Canopy Growth (CGC) for example, probably the best-known Canadian cannabis stock (and certainly the most expensive at $8.9 billion in market capitalization), currently sells for 19 times the $467 million in sales it's expected to produce in 2020. Aurora Cannabis (ACB), the next-biggest player in the industry at $5.9 billion in market cap, costs more than 11 times the $516 million in sales that analysts project for it in 2020. And Cronos Group (CRON), No. 3 in the industry at $3.9 billion in market cap, costs a staggering 23.6 times forward sales!

In fact, to get anywhere close to his promised "3.0x-4.0x" sales valuations, Hundley has to scrape pretty far down into the barrel, coming up with just one example from his own coverage list: Green Thumb Industries (GTBIF), which he says at $1.6 billion in market cap costs 3x fiscal 2020 projected sales. Granted, the analyst says there are other names down in that barrel as well, if you're willing to look for them -- Cresco (CRLBF) for one, and Trulieve (TCNNF) for another.

But if these are the kind of "quality cannabis names" Hundley is urging investors to look for, it bears asking: If they're so great, why hasn't he bothered to cover Cresco and Trulieve before?

The answer could be as simple as this: Because they aren't.

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