Aurora listed its greenhouse facility in Exeter, Ontario for sale for $17M. MedReleaf bought the facility in in April, 2018 for $26M ($21.5M in cash and the rest in stocks), began seeking a buyer two weeks later, and was acquired by Aurora for $3.2B in stock in May, 2018.
Bloomberg, Financial Post, CBC Business
- A MKM Partners analyst predicted the move “signals major writedowns ahead,” particularly given investors weren’t aware of the sale, despite a corporate update on December 23 when Aurora fired Chief Corporate Officer Cam Battley.
- Aurora said the site —originally planned as an R&D site—would require significant retrofitting in order to bring it up to the company’s standards, and this would have demanded serious capital investment.
Twitter—Vanmala Subramaniam, Kristine Owram
- The move, representing a $9M loss on purchase price, calls into question the reliability of listed book-value for cannabis assets.
The Deep Dive
The move is part of a greater trend of struggling LPs selling cultivation, processing, and storage facilities, though in many cases companies immediately lease them back. Some analysts predict LPs will begin to sell off foreign assets in Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America for access to cash.
MJ Biz Daily, Ottawa Citizen
- Marketwatch‘s Max Cherney noted By last summer Aurora had “the most accumulated non-cash value on its balance sheet” of all Canadian LPs. Much of that non-cash value related to the purchase of MedReleaf.
- Aurora may miss covenants on a $360M loan due in August 2021. Two analysts downgraded Aurora and cut the stock’s target threefold.
A friend of mine from outside the industry visited Aurora’s 11,000 square-foot REC store in the gargantuan West Edmonton Mall (rented at “far well above the ~$100 per square foot” rents paid by other West Edmonton Mall shops, so more than $1.1M monthly). My friend described it as “a monument to throwing away money.”
Edmonton Sun, Twitter—David George-Cosh
- “It’s the size of a roller skating rink,” my friend said. “The staff there were pleased to tell us that Aurora spent $2.5M on it.”
- It was a Saturday afternoon and my friend reported little more than a dozen customers, which he said made the ratio of personnel to shoppers 2:1.
- The front section of the store is a room of its own, selling no cannabis but offering, among other things, a wall of Dr. Bronner’s soaps, colouring books, and “an umbrella that changes colours when it rains.” The smoothie bar hadn’t finished being built yet, “but there was a staff member staffing it nonetheless.”