Later today, shares in Tilray, a Canadian marijuana cultivation and manufacturing company, are scheduled to go on sale on the NASDAQ exchange. This is a significant event, in a year full of them.
When shares in Tilray go on sale, it will be the first time a cannabis-producing company has gone public on a major American stock exchange — a strong sign that the days of shady and unsubstantiated penny-stock plays are ending — and it will also be proof positive of whether or not the cannabis industry has yet another legitimate billion-dollar unicorn with global expansion plans.
(Spoiler: Barring unforeseen disaster, it almost certainly does.)
Shares in Canopy went on sale on the New York Stock Exchange in May, and in February, Cronos Group became the first cannabis company listed on a major exchange when shares were listed on NASDAQ.
However, both companies went public in Canada prior to their listing in the United States, meaning Tilray’s offering is the first time a marijuana-producing company has gone public on a major exchange in the United States.
Tilray is one of three major marijuana-sector plays funded by Privateer Holdings, a Seattle-based private equity firm founded in 2011. (The other two are Marley Natural, a cannabis brand with official licensing from the estate of Bob Marley, and Leafly.)
Shares in Tilray are expected to be offered at a price of between $13 and $15 — which would in turn value the company at as much as $1.5 billion, as the Financial Post observed.
This would make Tilray another true unicorn in the marijuana sector, after fellow Canadian giant Canopy Growth Corp.’s rapid growth in value. Even at that valuation, Tilray would be only the “fourth or fifth most valuable public Canadian cannabis company,” according to the Financial Post — and this despite posting significant losses.
Like other richly-valued public LPs, Tilray’s unicorn status comes despite no profit and limited revenue (compared to valuation) from medical marijuana sales in Canada and abroad. In the quarter ended March 31, 2018 the company reported a loss of US $5.1 million on $7.8 million in revenue.
That said, the company, founded in 2013, has managed to make inroads in medical marijuana markets in 10 countries, and has signed a partnership with drug maker Sandoz Canada Inc., a subsidiary of Novartis International AG, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world.
In other words, a purchase in Tilray is a long-term bet on rapid expansion — and there are at least a few guarantees baked into that play.
Recreational marijuana goes on sale in Canada on Oct. 17. There is every indication that Marley Natural-branded products will be in stores at that time. (And, as Market Watch pointed out, it was no almost certainly no mistake that Tilray filed for its IPO the day after Canadian regulators announced that Oct. 17 would be the first day of sales.)
Further, there is every indication that Tilray products will figure heavily into the global market in medical marijuana, which is poised to take off in Europe.
Canadian firms like Tilray already export cannabis oil and flower to Europe, Israel, and Australia — and when the mother of a boy in the United Kingdom with severe epilepsy publicly “smuggled” cannabis oil back into the country, it was a Tilray product.
Finance nerds and traders will be interested to know that Tilray’s IPO is backed by investment banks Cowen, Roth Capital Partners and Northland Capital Markets.
And everyone will be interested to know that Tilray is also banking on what would be the most significant change in marijuana, ever: full-scale federal legalization in the United States.
(Disclosure: This author also contributes to Leafly News, which shares a parent company with Tilray, but has no financial stake of any kind in either firm. Unfortunately for him.)
TELL US, what do you think about this milestone moment?