Analyst Sees Value In Beaten Down Cannabis MSOs

Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Pablo Zuanic issued a report this morning in which he sees some value in the beaten-up cannabis group, although he also cautioned that numerous roadblocks remain. He was clear that the group may not have even found a bottom yet as prices continue to slide along with the broader market. Zuanic also noted that even the second quarter might not bring relief on valuations, but he is a selective buyer at these levels. Having said that he said investors may not see any meaningful upside for another two to three years and that it would probably only occur when some sort of federal reform occurs.

Current Valuation

Zuanic wrote, “The MSOS ETF fell 25% in the last month vs. a 7% drop for the S&P500, and over the last three months it is down 49% vs. -15% for the SPX Index (yoy -75% vs. -12%). Even on risk-on days, when the larger Canadian LPs move up, MSOs either drop or stay flat. The MSO stock performance masks encouraging medium and long-term sales trends, with more states legalizing since 4/1 (NM, NJ), or soon to start rec sales (RI, CT/NY), or soon to vote to legalize (MD, MO); also, states like IL could see growth accelerate as more stores open, as we have recently seen in MI (+22% seq sales trends based on Apri/May data).”

If investors were hoping for some relief in the second quarter, then Zuanic dashed those hopes. He said that the second quarter boost will most likely only apply to those companies in New Jersey. Adult-use sales begin in the state on April 21 and sales have reportedly been very good. Plus, investors have been increasingly focused on profit margins and cash flows, which dampens buying. The companies with good cash flow are also beset with high taxes and debt levels are high.

“In this context, where it is difficult to call the bottom (as technicals and poor liquidity exacerbate stock swings and concerns about the lack of reform at the federal level and about state level fundamentals), we would tread carefully and are buyers only selectively of a few MSOs. We think the current state of affairs will lead to further consolidation (Columbia Care was at 0.9x debt to sales as 3/31/22, and we think that contributed to the decision to sell at the bottom) and benefit those in a stronger position,” wrote Zuanic.  He says he is focused on quality and his top picks (in alphabetical order) remain: Cresco (CRLBF. OW) proforma (1.7x C23 EV/Sales), Curaleaf (CURLF, OW) (2.7x), Green Thumb (GTBIF, OW) (1.6x), and Trulieve (TCNNF, OW) (1.9x).

Sales Trends

The analyst took a temperature read on sales in the second quarter based on data from Headset. He cautioned that it wasn’t official hard data, but did gather that second-quarter sales overall had improved from the first quarter. Most companies had reported that first-quarter sales dropped from the fourth quarter, so this improvement is welcome. However, early indications seem to say that sales dropped versus 2021 for the same time period. He believes these sales figures are competing with last year’s stimulus checks that consumers got during the pandemic.

Cannabis prices seem to be falling as much as the stock prices. The analyst cited Cannabis Benchmarks and pointed out that wholesale prices nationwide (in the 18 states it tracks) averaged $1,057/lb for the week ending 7/1, down 16% from 4/1/22 and down 20% YTD (-35% you). “Regarding key MSO states that we track: AZ -9% seq and -45% YTD; CA -4% and -20%; CO -9% and -17%; CT -10% and -9%; IL +1% and -12%; MA -7% and -37%; MI +4% and -43%; NV -5% and -14%. We realize lower wholesale prices sometimes may be neutral for companies just focused on retail, but most of the MSOs that we track have cultivation and tend to be vertically integrated,” he wrote.

 

 

Debra Borchardt

Debra Borchardt is the Co-Founder, and Executive Editor of GMR. She has covered the cannabis industry for several years at Forbes, Seeking Alpha and TheStreet. Prior to becoming a financial journalist, Debra was a Vice President at Bear Stearns where she held a Series 7 and Registered Investment Advisor license. Debra has a Master's degree in Business Journalism from New York University.


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