Canada-based Aurora Cannabis Inc. tripled its revenue thanks to bigger weed sales in the final quarter of its fiscal year, but the pot producer’s profit gains were mostly the result of a different business: investing in other marijuana companies.
Canadian cannabis stocks have been soaring of late, as the country prepares to fully legalize the drug for adult recreational consumption on Oct. 17. Aurora ACBFF, +1.46% ACB, +0.32% executives, similar to competitors like Canopy Growth Corp. CGC, +0.44% WEED, +0.16% and Cronos Group Inc. CRON, +0.09% CRON, -0.28% , said after releasing earnings Monday eveningthat the company is prepared for a big spike in sales.
“In about three weeks from now, a significant increase in demand will initially come from the Canadian legal consumer use market,” Aurora Chief Corporate Officer Cameron Battley said on a conference call Tuesday morning. “We’ve been building inventory in anticipation of that market and have supply arrangements with just about every province and territory in Canada to supply a broad range of dry flower and higher margin products such as pre-rolls, oils and capsules.”
Aurora appears prepared for recreational legalization in other ways as well, mainly by becoming the Berkshire Hathaway of cannabis. Aurora has invested heavily in other weed businesses, and said Tuesday that as of Sept. 21, the total value of the company’s investments in public companies was worth more than C$700 million.
Strong gains for pot stocks stoked Aurora’s profit. The company reported earnings of C$79.9 million, up from losses of C$4.8 million in the year-earlier period. Gross profit, a line item in the financial statements that measures the amount a company earns before many costs are factored, was much lower at C$20.6 million, though still a strong gain from C$5.8 million in the year-ago period.
“The increase [in net income] was primarily attributable to the unrealized noncash gain on derivatives and marketable securities,” Aurora said in its release, crediting the profit to increases in the value of its investments.
An example of Aurora’s bets on the sector include its stake in the Green Organic Dutchman Holdings Ltd. TGOD, -7.49% TGODF, -5.97% — a bet the company made earlier this year and has made Aurora very rich, on paper.
Aurora said in January that it had invested C$55 million in Dutchman, purchasing 33 million shares for C$1.65 a share. Dutchman closed at C$8.25 Monday, which would value Aurora’s stake at roughly C$270 million. Aurora noted in its news release that it owns about 17% of Dutchman, and has options to increase that stake to more than 50%.
Other public companies that Aurora has invested in that were disclosed with its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings report included Hempco Food and Fiber Inc. HMPPF, -0.15% HEMP, -1.16% , CTT Pharmaceuticals Inc. CTTH, +14.48% and Choom Holdings Inc. CHOOF, -0.44% Aurora also disclosed the purchase of 20% of a private company, Capcium Inc., which is providing equipment to Aurora for manufacturing softgel pills for the medicinal market.
Aurora has been using these investments to establish partnerships that could prove useful as cannabis becomes legal. For instance, Battley said on Tuesday’s earnings call that an investment in Alcanna, a private chain of liquor stores in Canada, includes the establishment of “a chain of Aurora-branded cannabis retail stores” in Alberta.
“Beyond simple fee-to-sale, Aurora has established a deep presence in every aspect of the cannabis industry value chain,” Battley said Tuesday. “This includes plant genetics and industry leading research, facility design, extraction and formulation right through the consumer engagement and point-of-sale.”
Aurora also is highly acquisitive, as the company listed six full acquisitions it completed or agreed upon since the fiscal year reported Monday ended on June 30. Those included the massive $2.5 billion deal for MedReleaf that was announced in May, a $290 million agreement to purchase ICC Labs Inc., and purchases of Hothouse Consulting Inc., Anandia Laboratories Inc., Agropro UAB and Borela UAB.
Battley said that if MedReleaf had been part of the company in the quarter that was reported, revenue would have been C$33.1 million, more than 60% higher than the total sales that Aurora actually reported. The acquisition closed in late July.
Aurora hopes to make its own stock more investible for Americans with a listing on a “senior” U.S. exchange, the company confirmed in Monday’s release, but executives did not specify which one. Rival Tilray Inc. TLRY, +12.45% went public on the Nasdaq; Cronos and Canopy are cross-listed in the U.S.
Aurora stock gained 4.1% Tuesday to close at $12.77 on the TSX, the Canadian exchange where it is traded. Aurora also has a U.S. listing on the pink sheets. Aurora’s Canada-listed shares have gained 34.5% so far this year, as the Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences Index exchange-traded fund HMMJ, +0.57% has gained 16.2% and the S&P 500 index SPX, +0.43% has increased 9.2%.