It's earnings season, and marijuana company Aphria (NASDAQ: APHA) is among the early October-filers that cannabis investors will have an eye on. The company's next earnings report will be for its first quarter of fiscal 2021, covering the three-month period ended Aug. 30.

It's an important one for the Canadian pot producer, as Aphria's coming off a tough fourth quarter that disappointed investors and sent its shares reeling. Below are three numbers to look out for when the company releases its latest results, which will dictate how the stock performs in the days and weeks to follow.

Foreground shows a marijuana plant, background fades to show a large greenhouse with bright lights illuminating the space from above

1. Revenue from CC Pharma

Aphria completed the acquisition of German-based distributor CC Pharma in early 2019. Aphria has a strong presence in Europe, distributing medical cannabis and other pharmaceutical products in over 13,000 pharmacies in Germany and other countries. CC Pharma has played an especially large role in Aphria's performance of late. In the fourth-quarter results released on July 29 for the period ended May 31, CC Pharma contributed 97.1 million Canadian dollars of revenue, the bulk of Aphria's distribution sales of CA$99.1 million. For the full year, CC Pharma sales totaled CA$362.1 million, comprising 98.1% of the total revenue from distribution.

There's no denying the significance of the segment for the company's overall results, as Aphria's net cannabis revenue for fiscal 2020 (a separate measurement from distribution revenue) totaled just CA$173.1 million -- less than half of the sales from the distribution segment. In Q4, distribution revenue grew at a rate of 12.3% from the third quarter and was key to Aphria's growth, as its top line increased by just 5% from the previous period. Without another strong showing from CC Pharma in the first quarter, Aphria's performance could be disappointing.

2. Cannabis revenue and average selling price

If not for Aphria's strong distribution revenue, the company's financials could look totally different, as cannabis sales just haven't been all that strong for Aphria of late. In Q4, net cannabis revenue of CA$53.1 million was down 4.5% from the previous period.

Aphria noted that a key reason for the decline was a combination of price reductions and fewer sales. Its average selling price per gram went from CA$5.47 in the third quarter to just CA$5.23 in Q4.

This is an important area to watch. In an effort to dry out the illicit market in Canada, companies continue to lower the prices of licit cannabis products. The effort's been successful so far: Data from Statistics Canada shows that spending on legal pot was finally higher than illegal sales in the second quarter of the year.

But with lower prices come shrunken margins, and if Aphria becomes more aggressive on lowering prices in an effort to win market share in Canada, its bottom line could look weaker -- another area that investors will be looking at in its Q1 report.

3. Net income, and to a lesser extent, EBITDA

A big reason why investors were disappointed with Aphria's Q4 results was that it recorded an ugly loss of CA$98.8 million during the period. It's not something investors are used to with Aphria. In the prior-year period, the company posted a profit of CA$15.8 million, and it's been in the black in three of its last five quarterly results. But during Q4, Aphria incurred a CA$64 million impairment charge, and it reported a non-operating loss of CA$23 million (versus income of CA$43.1 million in the same period last year).

Although the company posted a positive adjusted earnings before income, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) number for a fifth period in a row in Q4, investors weren't impressed with the volatility on the company's recent earnings report and its overall loss. For Q1 to be an improvement, impairment and non-operating losses can't weigh down the company's bottom line the way they did in Q4. In short -- profitability is the priority.

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Should you buy Aphria before it releases its Q1 results?

Year to date, shares of Aphria are down a modest 5%. While they're not doing as well as the S&P 500, which is up 20%, they're still significantly outperforming the Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences ETF (OTC: HMLSF) that's crashed about 44% in 2020.

This could be a crucial period for Aphria, because if any one of three items noted above doesn't look strong, it could create concerns that this may no longer be the stable, growing cannabis company that it was in the past.

With Canadian marijuana companies becoming more aggressive on price in what could be a race to the bottom, I wouldn't hold out hope that Aphria's numbers will be strong in Q1. If you want to invest in the company, I'd suggest waiting until after the release of its latest results to see if it's still generating good quarter-over-quarter growth and if its bottom line is showing improvement. Currently, there are too many questions surrounding its recent performance to make Aphria a surefire buy.

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