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Three US cannabis stocks for your portfolio

For investors, the cannabis scene in the United States is not for the faint of heart. Stocks are prone to wild momentum swings, many of which can impact all of the names in the space regardless of a company’s performance. But that’s not the half of it. Because marijuana remains a Schedule 1 narcotic on the federal end, companies are left to deal with shifting regulatory environments that differ in each state. Some states have rec and medical markets while others are medical with inclinations towards opening up adult use, while others are still waiting on the sidelines. 

What you get is a patchwork landscape with many of the larger companies operating in multiple jurisdictions (multi-state operators or MSOs) while others focus their efforts in one state alone. Many companies are vertically integrated businesses with wholesale, cultivation, production and retail operations but some have more of their eggs in a single basket. 

Top that off with the consuming public’s ever-changing fancies for one brand of product over another, the ups and downs of each company’s respective expansion efforts as well as the on-going M&A maneuvers among contenders and what you have is a market with many, many moving pieces.

But fear not, the sector still has stocks that have been well-reviewed by analysts. In no particular order, here are three perhaps lesser-known lights which might be flying a little under the radar.

Ascend Wellness (Ascend Wellness Stock Quote, Charts, News, Analysts, Financials OTCQX:AAWH) is a MSO currently with operations in five states and a pending acquisition to enter a sixth. Running the Ascend and Ozone brands of cannabis products, the company has 18 operating dispensaries with aims to reach 20 by the end of the year and with flagship retail locations in and around Chicago, Boston, St. Louis and New York. 

Ascend’s IPO in May of this year saw the company issue ten million shares at $8.00 per share with an additional over-allotment of 1.5 million shares for total gross proceeds of $92 million. (All figures in US dollars except where noted otherwise.)

Last month, Haywood Capital Markets launched coverage of Ascend with a “Buy” rating and $16.50 target price, with analyst Neal Gilmer saying the company has been quick to enter attractive markets and is growing its footprint in terms of production capacity, outpacing its peer group. 

“Ascend is scaling operations that should lead to strong annual revenue growth for fiscal 2022. At over 80 per cent growth expected based on consensus estimates, the company has the second-highest expected growth rate when compared to the Tier-1 peer group and highest organic growth rate,” Gilmer wrote in an August 24 report to clients. 

“Despite having an industry leading growth trajectory, Ascend is trading at 8.9x 2022 EV/EBITDA, a discount to several of its closest peers trading in the 11x-15x range. In terms of 2022 EV/Revenue, Ascend also trades at a discount to the same group of peers in the 3.5x-5.5x range,” he wrote.

At press time, Gilmer’s $16.50 target represented a projected one-year return of 57 per cent.

Next up is another recently-public company, Detroit-based Gage Growth (Gage Growth Stock Quote, Charts, News, Analysts, Financials CSE:GAGE), which is vertically integrated in the state of Michigan and has currently ten retail locations under the Gage and Cookies brands. 

Clarus Securities analyst Noel Atkinson says Gage is showing solid momentum in its build-out and could have a full 20 retail locations open in Michigan by the end of 2021.

“Gage has grown furiously over the past 18 months and reached the US$100MM/year (annualized) sales threshold in Q2. We now assume most of the next 10 stores will open by mid-Q4, a bit longer timeline than before,” Atkinson wrote in a client update on August 25. 

“We expect Gage to become a leading vertically integrated operator in Michigan (by retail locations and by revenues) within the next few quarters,” he said.

With the update, Atkinson kept a “Speculative Buy” rating and C$5.00 target for Gage, which at the time of publication represented a projected return of 104 per cent.

Editor’s Note: on Sept. 1, Gage announced a definitive agreement to be acquired by US cannabis company TerrAscend.

Another single-state operator, Lowell Farms (Lowell Farms Stock Quote, Charts, News, Analysts, Financials CSE:LOWL) has cultivation, extraction, manufacturing, marketing and distribution operations in California with products under the Lowell Smokes and Lowell Herb Co brands. 

Lowell is aiming to license its brand beyond California and nationally, with the company having started the process through a deal (announced in August) with Ascend Wellness to sell Lowell Smokes pre-rolls in Illinois.

Beacon Securities analyst Doug Cooper said the earnings power of Lowell’s assets is very high.

“We believe LOWL has ability to generate $375 million from California assets (250,00 lbs of product at $1500/lbs). Access to low-cost feedstock could enable the company to reduce price of pre-rolls by 25 per cent+, enabling growth of whole category and increase its market share,” Cooper wrote in an update to clients on August 18.

“The Lowell brand in other states could easily be $200+ million especially given run-rate of $20 million+ in IL already. In other words, we believe Lowell Smokes can be the first nationwide cannabis brand to surpass $500 million. What is that worth? Much more than today’s market cap,” he said.

With his update, Cooper maintained his “Buy” rating on Lowell and target of C$5.00, which at press time represented a projected return of 218 per cent.

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About The Author /

Jayson is a writer, researcher and educator with a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Ottawa. His interests range from bioethics and innovations in the health sciences to governance, social justice and the history of ideas.
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