Cannabis deal tracker Viridian Capital Advisors is looking at the second half of the year to see what’s in store for the industry. Director of Equity Research Jonathan DeCourcey wrote, “The outlook is bearish for investor returns in the near term as the key catalyst on everyone’s mind, federal legislation, is unlikely to come, and thus valuations will remain depressed for the remainder of the year with further stock declines likely in connection with broader market weakness.” With that said, DeCourcey thinks investors will have to wait until next year for a return to a positive market in the sector. For now, though he has come up with five predictions for cannabis for the back half of 2022.
Viridian’s Five Predictions are as follows:
- Federal legislation won’t happen
- Stock prices will remain depressed
- Companies may beat earnings estimates
- California consolidation will continue
- Smaller companies will outperform larger ones
Despite hopes for a banking bill, it is unlikely that anything will happen in 2022. DeCourcey wrote, “There is insufficient bi-partisan support for Chuck Schumer’s full legislative proposal to pass (requiring 10 Republican votes and full Democrat support) and, as we have said before, the timing is too tight for a stand-alone SAFE Act to be possible this year given the Democrats will first await the Schumer proposal to make the rounds.” Schumer’s proposal is expected to come in August, but that doesn’t give it much time before the midterm elections.
New legislation could have been the catalyst to jump-start stock valuations. Take that off the table and there isn’t anything really big to move the needle. The overall broader market has been beset with recession fears and interest rate hikes. That also doesn’t help stock prices. However, depressed stock prices could combine next year with strong company earnings and that could lead to a recovery, but those hopes are pushed into 2023.
Companies struggled with revenues and earnings at the beginning of 2022. Lingering Covid issues, wholesale price declines, and integration issues for newly combined companies caused some strong headwinds. DeCourcey thinks that these challenges are winding down, but cautions that there could be lingering inflation pressures. Still, expectations have been reset and if the New York market actually opens in 2023 then next year could see some strong growth. Plus, companies are going to be able to start reporting New Jersey sales figures, which are looking very good. Those New Jersey numbers could spark some earnings beats and that would be welcome news.
“The proposed elimination of the California cultivation tax, which we expect to take effect next month, is a game-changer for California cannabis companies reducing the cost of production on outdoor growers by as much as 50%,” said the report. DeCourcey thinks the additional cash will lead to more transactions and motivation for M&A. The improving tax situation could also entice larger MSO’s to come to the market. “For investors, we expect the easier operating conditions and looming consolidation will result in outperforming returns for California-centric stocks in the second half and into next year.”
Finally, the report noted that scale does not necessarily equate to winning. Large companies get the attention, but the smaller and mid-size companies could have better growth potential with the likelihood of getting acquired. Smaller company stocks also outperformed the larger ones by declining by a smaller percentage. Dropping 47% on average versus 55% declines for larger companies. “Our top picks for 2H investment fall within the category of smaller and medium-sized companies. These names include Ascend (OTC: AAWH), AYR Wellness (OTC: AYRWF), Cansortium (CNTMF), Lowell Farms (LOWLF) and Schwazze.”