The bull case for Canopy Growth (NYSE:CGC) stock at this point essentially is that the market has overreacted. Cannabis plays have been hammered this year amid disappointing revenue growth and fears of cannabis oversupply. Canopy Growth stock hasn’t been spared: it’s down 65% from its late April highs.
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But there are reasons why its near-term results have disappointed investors. One of those reasons looks particularly key. Health Canada, that country’s cannabis regulator, has been slow to approve retail licenses. Especially in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, the retail infrastructure is lagging the industry’s production capacity.
That should start to change in 2020. Meanwhile, Health Canada is starting to approve licenses for so-called “Cannabis 2.0” products like vapes and edibles. The hope is that more retail locations selling more products will ease the industry’s overcapacity. That, in turn,will boost the revenue and margins of Canopy Growth and other cannabis producers.
It’s an intriguing theory, particularly with CGC stock near its lows. But there are still valid concerns about Canopy Growth stock, even after its 60%-plus decline. And if Cannabis 2.0 can’t fix Canopy Growth stock, it’s difficult to see what can.
The Rollout of Cannabis 2.0
Last week, Canopy Growth unveiled its extensive Cannabis 2.0 portfolio.
Canopy Growth is launching a broad lineup of vaping products. In partnership with Hummingbird Chocolate, Canopy is unveiling multiple chocolate products under several brands.
The company will release several beverages, including the trademarked Distilled Cannabis, a clear liquid made from whole cannabis flower. Its Tweed RTD (ready to drink) flavored beverages contain THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). Canopy will also offer sparkling water under its Quatreau brand, THC-heavy Deep Space carbonated beverages, and unflavored mixers.
The release of such a broad portfolio highlights one of the reasons why many cannabis bulls have chosen Canopy Growth stock. The multi-billion dollar investment by Constellation Brands (NYSE:STZ,NYSE:STZ.B) in CGC last year gave it enough capital to lead the industry. Canopy’s plans for Cannabis 2.0 suggest it has a real chance to do so.
The Case for CGC Stock
Meanwhile, CGC’s rivals have very real financial concerns. Aurora Cannabis (NYSE:ACB) continues to dilute its shareholders, but it still has a significant balance sheet problem. Hexo (NYSE:HEXO) has focused on edibles from the start, but it, too, needs to conserve its cash.
Canopy has no such problems. Thanks to the Constellation investment, it still has 2.7 billion CAD in cash and investments. Cash burn has been an issue in recent quarters — its cash balance shrunk over 400 million CAD in Q3 alone — but that problem should moderate going forward.
That balance sheet gives Canopy plenty of options. It can be aggressive on pricing, hoping to outlast its rivals. It could pick up assets down the line, assuming distressed companies look to sell themselves before (or after) going bankrupt.
More broadly, bulls can argue that the problem with the Canadian cannabis industry is not a long-term issue. The slow pace of regulatory action has caused many of the sector’s problems, including oversupply and lower-than-expected revenue.
Those problems will be fixed: Canopy Growth’s management projected after Q3 that supply and demand would return to balance by the middle of next year. And once that happens, optimism towards the worldwide cannabis sector will return. Few, if any, companies will be better-positioned for that opportunity than Canopy Growth.
The Risks to Canopy Growth Stock
I’m sympathetic to that bull case, particularly with Canopy Growth stock below $20. But there are risks to CGC stock that are worth noting.
First, Canopy Growth stock might be cheaper than it was, but it’s not cheap. Even backing out cash net of debt, the company is valued at about $5 billion. That’s roughly eight times the mean Wall Street 2020 top=line estimate.
Second, it’s not yet clear that Cannabis 2.0 will be the blockbuster for which bulls hope. Cannabis derivatives are expected to bring in new consumers, but consumers simply may not be interested in them.
Meanwhile, CGC’s competition will be intense, with the likes of Cronos (NASDAQ:CRON), Tilray (NASDAQ:TLRY), and many others similarly releasing edibles and vapes. There already are legitimate worries about Canopy’s plans to be all things to all consumers, plans which so far haven’t worked out. At the least, Canopy needs to execute much better than it has so far, and it has to do so without a permanent CEO in place.
CGC’s Margin Problem
Finally, Canopy Growth stock is significantly dependent on Cannabis 2.0 products at this point. If demand for pot derivatives doesn’t materialize, the stock is in real trouble.
The company’s deal with Acreage Holdings (OTCMKTS:ACRGF) targets a U.S. recreational market that may not open up for years. The CBD opportunity in the U.S. looks less attractive after the struggles of the sector’s leader, Charlotte’s Web (OTCMKTS:CWBHF). International markets haven’t changed much in the past 18 months.
The long-running concern about CGC stock, and cannabis producers more broadly, is that production is going to be a low-margin, commoditized business. There’s early evidence to suggest that indeed will be the case. If derivatives don’t drive real revenue at high margins, the company’s long-term profit outlook will drop even further.
In other words, CGC stock remains a risky bet to make. And it’s tough to make a compelling case as to why the bet should be made right now. CGC’s execution has been weak. It has repeatedly missed its guidance. Stocks across the sector remain falling knives, and Canopy Growth stock is largely in that category.
That said, I can see why cannabis bulls see CGC as attractive below $20. If its long-term opportunity is even close to what optimists believe it is, there’s a path to a longer-term rally. That path requires the company’s Cannabis 2.0 to be successful, meaning those products will likely define the performance of CGC stock next year.
As of this writing, Vince Martin has no positions in any securities mentioned.
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