We're entering the dog days of summer, but it sure isn't a lazy time in the world of marijuana stocks. As ever with this rapidly burgeoning industry, events continue to move fast. At times, they're even momentous.
This week certainly didn't lack for big news developments that shook the prices of more than a few marijuana stocks. Here are three key happenings in the industry over the past five working days.
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Imperial Brands' Auxly investment
An old-line tobacco company is stepping into the grow room. Imperial Brands (OTC: IMBBY) will invest 123 million Canadian dollars ($94 million) in Auxly Cannabis (OTC: CBWTF). That's a hefty sum, considering that the relatively small and obscure Canadian marijuana company's market capitalization is only a shade above $400 million.
In return for the investment, which takes the form of a convertible debenture, Auxly will receive global licenses to Imperial's vaping technology and its intellectual property. It will also be granted access to Nerudia, Imperial's nicotine liquids unit. For its part, Imperial will receive a seat on the board of directors.
Auxly trumpeted the timing of the arrangement, saying that it is "ideal as we prepare to bring our portfolio of innovative cannabis products to the Canadian market following the legalization of edibles, extracts and topicals later this year."
The choice of Auxly was a bit surprising for a company as entrenched as Imperial Brands, which holds classic cigarette brands like Winston and European favorite Gauloises in its portfolio, plus e-cigarette line Blu. Yet Auxly is becoming ever more widely connected throughout the cannabis industry, with partnerships and investments in various segments of the business.
Meanwhile, with this deal, Auxly connects with a well-capitalized and established player in a sector that's arguably the most complementary to its industry. It also gains a nice chunk of capital, which is always scarce in the world of corporate marijuana. It feels like this new partnership is potentially a win-win for both companies.
CannTrust CEO canned
The end of the week saw the end of Peter Aceto's reign as CannTrust (NYSE: CTST) CEO. The company, rocked by controversy over unlicensed growing in one of its facilities, announced it had relieved Aceto of his position, effective immediately. The obviously irate company's board also demanded -- and received -- the resignation of board chair Eric Paul.
The cannabis industry is no different to the wider corporate world in one respect: If a scandal erupts, oftentimes heads roll. And this is a troubling scandal. CannTrust received a notice of noncompliance from industry regulator Health Canada that it grew product in five unlicensed grow rooms for a period of several months. A report in Toronto's Globe and Mail said that Aceto and Paul were aware of this transgression.
The firing of Aceto, in particular, is good news for investors. But although this helps the company move past the controversy, it's far from over. Health Canada has not yet handed down a ruling on the matter -- it's possible that it'll go so far as to revoke the company's grow license. At the risk of stating the obvious, this would be a fatal blow to its business.
The market was glad to hear of the departures, bidding the stock up by almost 17% the day they were announced. But to reiterate, CannTrust is still potentially in very deep water, so it's probably a good idea to avoid the stock for now.
Cara Therapeutics' floating new stock issue
Speaking of stock, Cara Therapeutics (NASDAQ: CARA) is tapping the market for a new round of financing. The company, a biotech considered a marijuana stock because of its research into a cannabinoid receptor antagonist, announced it's floating a 5.5 million-share secondary issue of its stock.
The shares will be priced at $23 apiece, and the flotation will close "on or about" next Monday, July 29. In addition to the 5.5 million shares being offered to investors, the issue's underwriters will be given a 30-day option to buy up to 825,000 additional shares.
The monies received by Cara won't be used for anything related to weed. Instead, the company plans to utilize them in its push to win Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for Korsuva, its lead drug candidate. According to the company, Korsuva is a novel treatment for patients who suffer from itching derived from chronic kidney disease (CKD).
Although it's certainly a positive that Cara is chasing new money, the stock issue raises the usual concerns about share dilution (in front of the flotation, the company had just under 40 million shares outstanding).
However, we should bear in mind that it's typical for both biotechs and marijuana companies -- which are often loss-making and frequently hungry for capital -- to seek new funding in this way. Cara is still considered to be a biotech that has good potential with its pipeline drugs.
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