The early hours of the new trading year haven’t been any friendlier to Canadian cannabis stocks. Shares of all the biggest names, aside from Hexo, were down more than 4% just before 2 p.m. on Thursday.
Aurora Cannabis stock (ticker: ACB) was down 6%, a bad start for a stock that’s shed 60% of its value in the past year. The stock struggled as analysts lost hope that the company could reach positive cash flow in the near future.
Aurora also lacks a big-name backer like Canopy Growth (WEED) has Constellation Brands and Cronos Group (CRON) has Altria Group (MO). Though analysts looked to strategic advisor Nelson Peltz to help change that, not much has materialized aside from a partnership with the Ultimate Fighting Championship to research potential benefits of cannabidiol, or CBD, for athletes.
Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Pablo Zuanic thinks its time for Peltz to make a real difference at the company. Zuanic suggested in a note on Thursday that Peltz should push for the same greater financial discipline at Aurora that he did with Heinz, PepsiCo (PEP), and Mondelez International (MDLZ).
He thinks Peltz should help the company find a chief executive that would bring such discipline, with current CEO Terry Booth taking on the role of chairman. An Aurora Cannabis representative didn’t immediately provide a statement when reached for comment.
Zuanic offered the example of Canopy Growth stock, which popped 14% last month when the company named David Klein its next CEO. Klein was executive vice president and chief financial officer of 38% shareholder Constellation Brands.
Aurora trades at a major discount to peers like Canopy and Cronos Group, in terms of annualized sales implied by the quarter ending in September. If Aurora could find a consumer packaged goods company and a CEO, the stock would likely get a boost, he wrote.
To be sure, Aurora stock could fall further if it cannot turn things around, he notes. The company ended its September quarter with net debt of C$618 million (U.S. $475 million), or twice its present annualized sales. Net interest expense was 23% of sales.
Zuanic estimates Aurora will finish the fiscal year ending in June with C$744 million in net debt, even if the company hits positive earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization as its outlook implies. Zuanic has an Overweight rating on the stock, though he lowered his price target to C$5.00 from $5.85.
“Enhanced financial discipline and a new CEO could give ACB more credibility and the stock valuation would reflect less dilution risk,” Zuanic wrote.
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