Future Returns: Investing In The Cannabis Industry
Share Button

Future Returns: Investing In The Cannabis Industry

The stigma once associated with cannabis has dropped off dramatically.

By Rob Csernyik
Wed, Apr 28, 2021 3:20pmGrey Clock 3 min

Several years ago Morgan Stanley did a poll of over 1,000 high-net-worth investors to see if they’d invest in legal cannabis. A full 65% said they were not likely to invest if cannabis were legalised in the next 12 months.

But Matt Bottomley, equity research analyst at Canaccord Genuity in Toronto, doesn’t hear this same level of objection to the industry today, and for good reason. “At the end of the day, I think the U.S. cannabis sector at maturity is probably US$80 billion to US$100 billion in sales,” he says.

The stigma once associated with cannabis has dropped off dramatically, and within the past month states including New York and Virginia, as well as Mexico, have either legalised it or announced plans to do so.

“You’re going to see it slowly, over the next years and decades transition from a more traditional consumer-packaged goods market,” Bottomley says. Presently, leading U.S. companies “are kind of doing everything in every market,” he says—from growing to producing, up to creating edibles and even operating retail in some markets. As legalisation expands across the world, big pharma may look to get in on it, changing valuations.

Big-name companies trading in the U.S. such as Canopy and Tilray see their stock prices appreciate when pro-legalisation stories hit the news. But because cannabis is still a Schedule I drug, meaning tightly regulated by the government, Bottomley says, “the fundamentals are not necessarily going to flow down to those types of companies.”

Meanwhile, leading American companies like Curaleaf or Trulieve trade on Canadian junior exchanges, less easily accessed by the overall U.S. retail investor market. He thinks there’s a tremendous amount of capital yet to come into this space. Many companies, he adds, are underserved by institutional investors as well.

“Over the long term if you pick the right horses in the sector, there’s still quite a lot of growth to be had.”

Here are three things Bottomley says to keep in mind when investing in the cannabis sector.

Take Stock of Your Risk Profile

Investors entering the cannabis market have to consider their risk thresholds. “All of our buys on cannabis stocks to date are all speculative buys, and we do have holds and sells as well,” Bottomley says.

The sector can be home to wild price swings where for weeks at a time stocks go in one direction, before pivoting and going the other way. If they consider a 2%-to-3% move in a day outside their risk threshold, it might not be for them. Especially because the “wild directions” stocks move in aren’t necessarily tied to company performance.

Bottomley says it also requires a lot of patience. “You really have to be comfortable about where you are on that growth curve and how far ahead of markets opening up—you want to invest your incremental dollar to get ahead of what could eventually be a very large push upward.”

Valuation is Relative

Cannabis is a sector where policy announcements about the future of legalisation can cause stocks to move in the same direction, but investors can’t let that alone sway them. Even if every cannabis stock is moving up or down, and the shift seems uniform, Bottomley advises exercising caution.

Not every cannabis company has exposure to the same markets or regions. When looking at companies in the cannabis space, he says it’s necessary to see how they’re situated in markets relative to their peer group.

He offers the example of a Canadian company trading at 30 or 40 times its forward profitability metrics, or Ebitda (short for earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization), but that lacks access to the U.S. market or other growth drivers.

“I prefer buying a company that’s trading at a lower multiple than that, but actually has that exposure,” he says. “That’s the first thing that I look at when I’m putting a rating to any of these companies that I cover.”

Understand the Management Team

For Bottomley, management teams and their philosophies are particularly important in the cannabis industry. “We’ve seen a lot of good case studies for huge success stories and a lot of case studies where things haven’t gone so well,” he says.

Prior to Covid-19, Bottomley went on a lot of site visits, meeting management teams. What benefits investors long term, he says, are companies that aren’t too aggressive with mergers and acquisitions, don’t overpay for assets and focus on core markets where they have competencies and market share. But this also means having good infrastructure, like call centres to support patients for medical cannabis companies, or adequate supply for and quantity of retail locations to gain market share.

“Management teams can be fairly aggressive with respect to their messaging,” Bottomley says, “and that’s fine if you can back it up, but I think that’s something investors have to be particularly careful of when they’re choosing which operators they want to back.”



MOST POPULAR

What a quarter-million dollars gets you in the western capital.

Alexandre de Betak and his wife are focusing on their most personal project yet.

Related Stories
Money
Celebrations Big and Small Are Getting Longer and More Extravagant for the Rich
By SHIVANI VORA 21/06/2024
Money
Do You Have What It Takes to Be a ‘Personality Hire’?
By CALLUM BORCHERS 21/06/2024
Money
Social-Media Influencers Aren’t Getting Rich—They’re Barely Getting By
By SARAH E. NEEDLEMAN 19/06/2024
By SHIVANI VORA
Fri, Jun 21, 2024 4 min

Milestone birthdays and anniversaries, weddings, and graduations are momentous life occasions that some like to mark with large and elaborate celebrations.

And the deep-pocketed set are still in catch-up mode after a party-throwing standstill during the pandemic that went on for many months during the height of the lockdowns and social distancing. Bashes since then have become ever more extravagant and experiential—mere get-togethers, they’re not.

Hosts are also seeking any excuse to throw an event and having parties with the same “wow” factor for far less significant reasons, or for micro-occasions as they’re called, and even “just because,” according to luxury event planners who work with this elite set.

Colin Cowie, a planner based in New York and Miami who regularly orchestrates multimillion-dollar gatherings and was behind Jennifer Lopez’s and Ben Affleck’s wedding, calls it the “event revolution.”

“Large-scale events have become the norm,” Cowie says. “The wealthy, who are used to celebrating their life moments in a big way couldn’t do anything during the pandemic and are now going all out for anything they host.”

His company, Colin Cowie Lifestyle, plans 30% more events today than pre-Covid and has a lineup booked for the next two years. An example includes an upcoming million-dollar dinner party in the Hamptons simply to socialise with friends. It’s an affair with free-flowing Dom Perignon, centre-cut filet mignons, and unlimited caviar.

Colin Cowie Lifestyle plans 30% more events today than pre-Covid
Calen Rose

Other high-end planners also attribute the rise of over-the-top celebrations to a “live life to the fullest” attitude that’s become prevalent in the last few years. But they say that these parties aren’t necessarily about spending more than before—rather, they’re increasingly creative, thoughtful, and, with respect to weddings, longer.

Lynn Easton, a Charleston-based planner, says that her typical wedding used to span two days and entailed a rehearsal dinner plus the wedding itself. “Now, it’s a five-day bonanza with events like a groomsman lunch,” Easton says.

Easton also plans glitzy milestone birthdays such as one for a 60th where the host flew 60 friends and family to a private island. Dinners were multi-hour affairs in various locations around the isle with the showpiece being a five-course meal where the food was presented on dishes that were hand-carved in ice.

Another planner, Victoria Dubin, based in New York and Miami, says that, in a new precedent, the weddings she’s tapped to design kick off with striking welcome meals. She recently planned an al fresco rehearsal dinner at the Brooklyn pizzeria Roberta’s that recreated a Tuscan garden. Elements included potted herbs, lemon trees, vintage olive oil cans, ceramic plates, and table cards presented with palm leaves in limoncello cans.

Another planner, Victoria Dubin, recently planned an al fresco rehearsal dinner at the Brooklyn pizzeria Roberta’s that recreated a Tuscan garden.
Aletiza Photo

Pashmina shawls hung from chairs to keep guests warm, and freshly baked pizzas and Aperol spritzes were in ready supply throughout the evening.

Stacy Teckin, the groom’s mother, hosted the party with her husband, Ian, and says she sought to pull off a dinner that made an impression on their guests. “The wedding was delayed because of Covid, and now that we had the chance to celebrate, we wanted to go all out,” Teckin says. “I’m not sure we would have done that before.”

In another example, acclaimed planner Norma Cohen threw a wild safari-themed bar mitzvah for a client.

A four-day wedding in Paris where the ceremony was in a historic chateau and the host paid for guests to stay at Hotel Crillon
Norma Cohen Productions

The memorable occasion transpired at Spring Studios in downtown Manhattan and saw 400 guests be transported to the African plains: Details included mammoth replicas of wildlife such as giraffes and elephants, servers in safari themed attire, and entertainment dressed like giraffes. The event was one of several over-the-top parties Cohen’s arranged recently.

A four-day wedding in Paris where the ceremony was in a historic chateau and the host paid for guests to stay at Hotel Crillon, one of the city’s most luxurious properties, also ranks high in Cohen’s memory.

Then there’s a destination party in London that Cohen planned for a client who was turning 40. It as a six-day affair with dinners at swanky spots such as Cipriani, the Arts Club, and Cecconi’s at Soho House. The finale was Lancaster House, a mansion in St. James, where guests were entertained by cabaret dancers from the famed Ibiza club Lio Ibiza and feasted on prime rib and lamb chops and imbibed on Krug champagne.

“People today don’t want to host events,” Cohen says. “They want experiences that take you away to a different place and make you forget that the real world exists.”