The marijuana industry has jumped into the limelight in recent years, and 2019 in particular has been a strong year so far for cannabis stocks. As key companies in the sector have started to see better results from major events like the opening of the Canadian market to recreational cannabis product sales, investors are looking closely at their strategies to see how marijuana companies intend to stand out from their competitors and find their own unique pathways to growth.
Earlier this week, Aurora Cannabis (NYSE:ACB) reported its latest quarterly results, and investors got to find out a lot about how the Canadian cannabis company has sought to stake its claim to the budding marijuana market. In particular, comments from CEO Terry Booth and his executive team shed some light on Aurora’s growth strategies and how it’s looking to become the dominant player in pot in the years to come.
1. The importance of medical marijuana
We are a medical company at heart. We support our patients not only with high-quality product but also with advocacy, education, and scientific research. We have competed, are involved in, and are commencing some 40 clinical trials and medical case studies in addition to seven preclinical studies.
— COO Cam Battley
Amid the excitement about recreational cannabis, Aurora doesn’t want investors to forget about its roots in the medical marijuana market. In many areas of the world, medicinal uses are the only permissible reason to purchase cannabis products, and Aurora has generated a positive reputation worldwide for its medical marijuana prowess. That’s an asset that Battley sees giving Aurora an edge as more countries across the globe look at allowing cannabis sales.
2. Branding is key
In the consumer market, we predominantly sell to our partners, the provinces. But we’re also participating in this new market by investing in retail organizations. In addition to our investment in Alcanna, which operates North America’s largest chain of nongovernment-owned liquor stores and are targeting a large number of retail outlets across the country, we strategically invested in Choom Holdings and High Tide, two emerging leaders in the Canadian retail space.
Aurora understands that if it wants to be a leader in the industry, it needs to establish itself not just as a provider of high-quality products but also build up brand awareness. The company earned more than 20% market share in Canada’s retail rollout, and its cannabis strains are among the top-ranking products available in Canada’s recreational market. Yet to build up the power of Aurora’s brands, having distribution capacity in dedicated retail locations is an important supplement to being available in government-operated locations. Building a brand will also help Aurora as it expands globally.
3. Volume is rising rapidly
Our cannabis production in the quarter increased by 57% to 7,822 kilograms. This increase in production can be attributed to capacity added by both Aurora Sky and MedReleaf’s Markham and Bradford facilities. We expect to achieve annual production capacity of at least 150,000 kilograms by the end of [March].
— CFO Glen Ibbott
With marijuana markets opening up, having enough products available has been a key obstacle to overcome. Aurora has ambitious plans for ramping up its production capacity, and already, efforts to bulk up throughput via acquisitions and organic growth are paying off. Aurora harvested more cannabis in the first five weeks of 2019 than its entire annual production capacity a year ago, and those trends are likely to continue.
4. The U.S. market is in a state of confusion
The Farm Act that was put in place that allowed for hemp production and distribution in the U.S. didn’t really touch properly upon the CBD distribution. … So it’s a bit of legal confusion in the States. … We’ll enter when it’s proper to enter and when it’s legal to enter into the U.S. market.
— CEO Terry Booth
Much has been made of the opportunity for marijuana companies to enter the U.S. market through the recent legalization of hemp production under the just-passed U.S. farm bill. Aurora sees itself as a first mover in the hemp space, and Booth believes that the U.S. will play a key role in overall growth. Yet Booth also clearly sees the U.S. as only part of the global opportunity, and his vision centers on ensuring that Aurora can produce enough cannabis to supply consumer needs worldwide.
5. Expect lots of future progress operationally
Looking at the rest of the year, you can expect to see our operating costs trending down as our Sky Class facilities come online and we continue to reduce operating costs. We’ll leverage our leadership in international markets to accelerate further growth. We’ll launch product innovations and continue to innovate along the value chain.
As the cannabis industry grows, it’ll be increasingly important for leading companies to improve their business operations. Aurora has identified the need to be savvy in handling its internal business efficiently, and the institutional investors that have shown great interest in cannabis stocks will judge among major players according to their ability to deliver good results and improvements in their business practices. At this point, Aurora sees clear skies ahead.
Keep your eyes on Aurora
Aurora Cannabis has plenty of competition, and it won’t be able to sustain its leadership role by standing still. With ambitious strategic plans in place, Aurora hopes to keep building momentum and remain one of the most important marijuana stocks in the market.