The stock market was once again fairly quiet on Wednesday, as the beginning of earnings season brought some mixed views about the state of the overall U.S. economy. Investors remain uncertain how policymakers will respond to the conflicting readings on economic growth. As of 11 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI) was down 21 points to 27,314. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC) fell 4 points to 3,000, and the Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX: ^IXIC) declined 8 points to 8,215.
Many investors follow earnings reports as a sign of how well a business is doing fundamentally, but you can also get a sense of where companies are strategically from their announcements between earnings releases. Conagra (NYSE: CAG) discussed its role in the growing meat-alternative market as it sees its brands of meatless products going up against Beyond MeatÂ (NASDAQ: BYND) and other food companies. But first, we'll look at cannabis cultivator Curaleaf Holdings (NASDAQOTH: CURLF) and its announcement that has significant implications for the Massachusetts-based marijuana company's future.
Curaleaf aims for a big expansion
Shares of Curaleaf Holdings climbed 15% Wednesday morning after the cannabis specialist announced an agreement to acquire an industry peer. Curaleaf will pay about $875 million to buy GR Companies, better known as Grassroots, which is the largest privately held vertically integrated multistate cannabis operator in the U.S. market.
Under the terms of the deal, Grassroots will get $75 million in cash, along with 102.8 million shares of Curaleaf, as well as an additional $40 million in shares based on the Curaleaf stock price immediately prior to closing. That will give Grassroots investors a total of about 16% ownership in the combined company.
The merger brings together two huge American marijuana businesses. Curaleaf operates 48 dispensaries, 13 cultivation sites, and 12 processing sites in 12 different states. Grassroots has facilities in 11 states, and most of them are areas in which Curaleaf has no current presence. That includes key markets like Illinois and Pennsylvania, and the combined company will have 131 dispensary licenses, 68 operational locations, 20 cultivation sites, and 26 processing facilities in 19 states.
Curaleaf has already made an aggressive strategic move recently with its $950 million purchase of Oregon-based vaporizer-cartridge specialist Cura Partners. Today's announcement doubles down on Curaleaf's cannabis aspirations, and investors seem to think the rewards outweigh the risks from the Grassroots deal.
Conagra looks to Gardein
Shares of Conagra Brands rose just a fraction of a percent following news that it will add new items to its product line of plant-based meat alternatives. The move comes as Conagra tries to stake its claim to the fast-growing food market niche, where Beyond Meat has seen dramatic initial success.
Conagra's Gardein brand will release what it calls Chick'n Wings, Tenders, and Nuggets in a variety of flavors, as well as breakfast bowls using a plant-based sausage substitute and skillet meals with pork and lamb alternatives. Single-serving entree bowls will also be available using substitutes for beef, chicken, and sausage.
Conagra has high hopes for plant-based foods, putting estimates for the addressable market for meat substitutes at as much as $30 billion in the U.S. alone. The food giant believes that it can outpace Beyond Meat and other upstart rivals with the breadth of its product lineup. Gardein doesn't have a burger yet, but it expects to develop one soon.
With Beyond Meat shares having soared since its recent IPO, investors can expect a disproportionately large amount of attention to go toward meatless alternative foods. Conagra will be a formidable player in the space, and shareholders hope it will take its fair share of the fast-growing market.
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