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Institutional investors currently buzzing on marijuana stocks

By Alexis Grace
Aug 27, 2018

Many marijuana stocks experienced significant stock price hikes recently, with notable gains coming last week. Last Friday alone, Aphria Inc. (TSX:APH)(OTC:APHQF), Canopy Growth Corp. (TSX:WEED)(NYSE:CGC), Tilray (NASDAQ:TLRY), and Cronos Group (NASDAQ:CRON) amongst many others saw tremendous percentage gains.

Last Friday’s positive stock price moves could partially be due to the continued momentum following the prior week's announcement by the Ontario Cannabis Store of an agreement with 26 suppliers. The deal included all of the aforementioned marijuana stocks (click here to see a full list of all 26 companies).  

[Read More: These are five dividend-paying marijuana stocks for more predictable portfolio returns]

More likely, it is a response to an announcement by Diageo Plc (NYSE:DEO), the world's largest producer of spirits and beer, who is looking to invest in the cannabis industry.

The announcement is the latest in the growing trend of non-cannabis-related institutional investors entering the sector and it’s sending marijuana stock prices skyrocketing.

There’s anticipation of even more institutional investors buying into the cannabis industry. Mainstream corporations are following the lead of the Wrigley Family who moved from chewing gum to marijuana by investing $65 million into the Georgia medical cannabis startup Surterra Wellness. And, of course, Molson Coors Brewing Co.’s joint venture to develop cannabis-infused beverages with Hydropothecary Corp. (TSE:HEXO) and Constellation Brands’ investment in Canopy Growth could be the primary drivers of gains such as those seen on Friday.

For a better sense of what types of investors could be driving the most recent and future market shifts, here’s an overview of who is currently investing in, or is planning to invest in, a major cannabis stock.

Aphria Inc.

Leading Friday’s gainers, Aphria Inc. (TSX:APH)(OTC:APHQF) saw a whopping 23.3 percent increase in their stock price. The agreement with Ontario surely influenced the hike, but also, there are rumors that U.K.-based liquor company Diageo Plc (NYSE:DEO) is looking to buy into the marijuana industry with Aphria as one of its primary targets.

According to this Daily Marijuana Observer article, fueling these rumors was the appointment of Jakob Ripshtein, former CFO of Diageo North America, as Aphria’s first Chief Commercial Officer.

Here’s a list of Aphria’s top 5 largest shareholders as of the most recent 13F filings. There are not yet any large institutional investors on the list, but this would change if Diageo does decide to do business with Aphria.

  • John Cervini
  • Cole Cacciavillani
  • Horizons ETFs Management (Canada), Inc.
  • The Vanguard Group, Inc.
  • Manulife Asset Management Ltd.

Canopy Growth Corporation

Canopy has had an over 80 percent stock return since the $4 billion Corona beer maker Constellation Brands made their investment on August 15. Canopy Growth was among the Friday gainers with an 8.38 percent return, although the last big headline for Canopy was the company’s agreement with Ontario on August 21.

[Read More: Exclusive: Wells Fargo closed my account over cannabis-related issues too]

There is some speculation that Constellation will acquire Canopy, but otherwise, the Friday gains are likely continued investor sentiment towards the future success of the Constellation and Ontario deals and other deals with institutional investors that might follow.

Here’s a list of the top five Canopy stock owners according to the most recent 13F filings. The $4 billion Constellation investment in Canopy increased ownership in the company from 9.9 percent to 38 percent.

  • Constellation Brands, Inc.
  • Murray Goldman
  • The Vanguard Group, Inc.
  • Bruce Linton
  • Horizons ETFs Management (Canada), Inc.

Tilray, Inc.

Tilray is the first cannabis stock to have an IPO on a U.S. exchange and has increased its stock value by 50 percent since its IPO on July 19, 2018. Tilray saw a 14.67 percent increase on Friday and is on track for a record high. Like Aphria, Tilray is also a marijuana grower that is a possible focus for Diageo’s investment. The possibility is likely the major driver of the stock price hike on Friday.

[Read More: Gov. Cuomo and cannabis: Lies, damned lies, and statistics]

Although Tilray will not disclose their IPO investors until later this year, it is known that Privateer Holdings, a Seattle-based private equity firm that invests in the cannabis industry, owns a majority of Tilray at this time. Small investments from Factor Advisors LLC, Brinker Capital Inc., Nationwide Fund Advisors and Driehaus Capital Management LLC are also known.

Cronos Group

Cronos Group was also one of the top gainers, closing up 16.39 percent Friday. Chronos is the third large marijuana producer on Diageo’s radar.

Here’s a list of Chronos Group’s largest five shareholders.

  • Chescapmanager LLC
  • Jason M. Adler
  • Horizons ETFs Management (Canada), Inc.
  • Penserra Capital Management LLC
  • Michael Gorenstein

MYM Nutraceuticals Inc

MYM Nutraceuticals Inc (CSE:MYM)(CSE:MYM.CN) was the second leading percentage gainer behind Aphria, closing up 19.52 percent on Friday. The company announced Friday it would enter into a research partnership with the University of Sherbrooke, a university in southern Quebec to study the medicinal and industrial uses of cannabis and hemp. The partnership is yet another example of institutions (in this case educational institutions) accepting the legitimacy of the cannabis industry.

There are currently no reports of institutional investors holding MYM shares, but with this new research partnership, this supports the possibility of future institutional support with the company.

Other stock gainers piggybacking off of institutional investment possibilities

Even without any major news development on Friday, many more stocks saw large gains with the anticipation of institutional investors becoming more involved with the marijuana industry as a whole. Other notable gainers include CannTrust Holdings Inc. (OTC:CNTTF) closing up 16.25 percent, The Supreme Cannabis Company Inc. (OTC:SPRWF) closing up 14.91 percent and Vivo Cannabis Inc. (TSXV:VIVO) up 12.78 percent.

Venture capital, private equity and other funds investing in the cannabis industry

Institutional investors aren’t the only ones making bets on new marijuana highs. There are various investment funds emerging to take advantage of the recent cannabis stock gains. HALLEY Venture Partners is a venture capital firm which invests in the legal cannabis market. Cannabis Capital LLC is another investment firm investing in, as stated on their website, the “undeniable future of cannabis.”

In addition to investing heavily in Tilray, the cannabis industry-focused private equity firm Privateer Holdings also invests in some other large cannabis industry players including the website Leafly and Marley Natural.

According to the company’s website, the firm believes that “the end of cannabis prohibition is inevitable” and that when it is fully legal, they will “hold the most enviable position in the market and to generate enormous returns —both financial and social.”

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