Cannabis Watch: Tilray says coronavirus has not dented operations

The British Columbia-based cannabis company reported a first-quarter net loss of $184.1 million, which amounts to $1.73 a share, compared with a loss of $29.4 million, or 31 cents a share, a year ago. The larger-than-expected losses resulted from several non-cash charges — including a roughly $30 million charge from a stalled U.S. CBD deal — and nearly a $30 million hit because of a weakening Canadian dollar.

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Tilray’s revenue rose 126% to $52.1 million, from $7.9 million a year ago, and the company said that it paid $5 million in excise taxes, which many consumer packaged-goods companies remove from gross revenue. Tilray’s revenue grew 11% compared with the fourth quarter. Nearly half of Tilray’s sales are from its hemp foods business.

In the company’s earnings call Monday, Chief Financial Officer Michael Kruteck said that, like many cannabis operators, Tilray saw an increase in cannabis sales during March as people stockpiled cannabis ahead of stay-at-home orders in Canada. Krutek also said that in April sales have slowed from March’s lofty levels, but have remained higher than in January and February.

Analysts polled by FactSet had expected a loss of 44 cents a share on sales of $49.4 million.

In a statement, Chief Executive Brendan Kennedy said that by the end of the year the company aims to turn a profit using a non-standard measure called adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. He also said that the company took several steps to make its business more efficient, which should save it $40 million a year, though the measures were not “fully reflected” in the first quarter’s results.

The company sold $5.8 million worth of medical weed abroad, which was higher than medical sales in Canada for the first time. “International medical will never go back,” Kennedy said in the earnings call. “It will always be in excess of our Canadian medical revenue.”

In a telephone interview with MarketWatch, Kennedy said sourcing cannabis for sale in international markets has been even harder than it was buying pot leading up to Canada’s recreational legalization in 2018. He said the two problems Tilray encounters most frequently are difficulties determining whether a company is actually licensed to sell medical weed and finding product that lives up to the claims of the seller. Kennedy also said Tilray is finding that pricing has become much more favorable

In Canada, Tilray sold $20.9 million of recreational cannabis and $4.1 million worth of medical pot. Manitoba Harvest, its hemp foods unit, reported sales of $21.3 million. For the Canadian wholesale weed market, Kennedy says that Tilray continues to hunt for product and at this point there is less competition to acquire high potency product, perhaps because many of Tilray’s rivals are starved for cash.

Executives said that second-generation cannabis products like edibles and drinks were strong and that prices are dropping on flower, especially for lower and mid-potency products.

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Tilray said the average cannabis net selling price per gram decreased to $5.28 from $5.60 a year ago; excluding excise taxes, the price was $3.49 a gram.

To date, Tilray said that it had not experienced any material coronavirus-related impacts related to its medical cannabis sales, recreational pot sales in Canada or its Manitoba Harvest hemp products. In Canada, cannabis companies have been largely allowed to continue operations, though additional safety measures are necessary.

“Some of our shipments [have been] delayed here and there by a few days,” Kennedy said in the call. “Overall, we have not seen significant COVID-19-related distribution challenges in Canada or internationally in the first quarter and throughout April and the first part of May.”

In March, Tilray sold $90.4 million worth of stock at $4.76 a share, less than a third of what it listed the stock for when it went public. Tilray listed on the Nasdaq at $17 a share in 2018, months ahead of Canadian legalization of recreational pot use and at one point its shares briefly touched $300 in intraday trading. Tilray raised the money in March as the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.44% and S&P 500 SPX, +0.01% suffered their largest single-day losses since the October 1987 crash.

“I live in Seattle and there were a couple weeks in March that it felt like I was like living two weeks into the future, opposed to the rest of American,” Kennedy said in the phone interview. “When we looked out over the rest of the year, I was concerned about our ability to raise cash — I was concerned about the whole industry’s ability to raise cash. We were presented with an opportunity [to raise money] toward the middle of March and we decided the best thing we could do for our shareholders was to add cash to the balance sheet.”

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