As 2023 comes to a close – another turbulent 12 months for the books, with more markets opening, insane price fluctuation, and seemingly more M&A news every week – Green Market Report tapped cannabis financial whiz Mike Regan of Excelsior Equities for his thoughts on the most noteworthy transactions of the year.
Regan, the director of research at Excelsior, rattled off a few dozen high-profile marijuana business deals he thought were interesting for various reasons. But here are the top five chosen by Green Market Report.
Cresco-Columbia Care Merger Sacked
Perhaps a telling sign of how much of the rest of the industry fared in 2023, Regan’s top cannabis deal of the year was one that didn’t happen: a high-profile “mega-deal” that would have merged Cresco Labs (CSE: CL) (OTC: CRLBF) and Columbia Care – which is now know as The Cannabist (NEO: CBST) (OTCQX: CBSTF) – into a $2 billion behemoth.
The merger was originally announced in March 2022 but collapsed in July 2023, following months of heavy financial losses by both companies and sliding stock prices.
Regan said that failure was indicative of more systemic problems, because the entire reason the merger fell apart was due to several divestitures and other smaller deals that never materialized.
“They couldn’t get deal number one done because they couldn’t get deals two, three, and four done,” Regan said. “Those asset sale deals didn’t happen, so this deal didn’t happen.”
Green Thumb $25 Million Stock Buyback
Chicago-based multistate operator Green Thumb Industries (CSE: GTII) (OTCQX: GTBIF) in September enacted what Regan said he believes to be the first sizable stock share buyback program by a public cannabis company.
The move returned $25 million of cash back to shareholders in the third quarter, the MSO reported in its quarterly financials.
“It’s the first big buyback in the space, and GTI decided it would rather buy $25 million more of their existing business rather than acquire other assets,” Regan said, which suggests there could be more such moves to come.
British American Tobacco Doubles Down on Organigram
Canadian cannabis company Organigram Holdings (NASDAQ: OGI) (TSX: OGI) got a major cash injection from British American Tobacco (NYSE: BTI), when the global tobacco giant doubled down on its 2021 investment of C$221 million with commitments for another C$124.6 million (about $93.2 million) just last month.
Even though Organigram has struggled to get into the black – as have so many other publicly traded marijuana companies in both the U.S. and Canada – the investment serves as another reminder that enormous corporate interests like BAT are waiting on the sidelines for federal reform to clear the way.
How the entrance of interests like this will change things for existing companies remains to be seen, Regan noted.
“It’s another large strategic operator going comparatively big for Organigram and comparatively tiny for BAT,” Regan observed. “BAT could take one year of their $12 billion of free cash flow and buy all the public U.S. (cannabis) companies at these levels if they wanted to. It’s important to note that they’re at least eyeing the space enough to invest.”
Trulieve’s Strategic Debt Pay Down
Florida-based Trulieve Cannabis Corp. (CSE: TRUL) (OTCQX: TCNNF) effectively made an $8 million gain and will save about $21 million in interest by paying off debt that was set to mature next year, while also buying back longer term debts set to mature in 2026, Regan said.
It’s a move that others could learn from, particularly in a capital-starved environment such as the one the cannabis industry has endured through much of the last two years.
“It’s more interesting that their 2026 debt was trading at a discount,” Regan said. “Trulieve just made $8 million buying back their debt, as well as saving three years of interest.”
TerrAscend’s Timely Maryland Acquisitions
The Maryland acquisitions spurred a good chunk of TerrAscend’s revenue growth for much of the remainder of 2023, the company reported in its third-quarter financials.
The move is another reminder of business fundamentals, Regan said: Making the right acquisition can be about timing as much as price or other factors.
“That was a pretty effective consolidation to gain more market share ahead of that catalyst. We may see more of that” as more states go recreational, Regan said.