While other large Canadian pot producers have reported deep losses , on Wednesday morning, Aphria reported profits on strong sales growth in its fiscal third quarter ended February. Cash flow from the company’s cannabis operations rose by more than 75%, leaving Aphria with over 500 million Canadian dollars (or US$365 million) on its balance sheet for future operations and acquisitions.
“We are setting ourselves apart from the rest of the Canadian industry,” said Chairman and CEO Irwin Simon on a Wednesday morning call. “Our growth has enabled us to be one of the few profitable, publicly traded distributors.”
Aphria stock (ticker: APHA) was up 6% to $3.87 in Wednesday trading on the NYSE.
With a partner, Aphria opened a second large production facility in the quarter, and says it was producing at an annual rate of 175,000 kilograms of cannabis at February’s end. By contrast, Canopy Growth (CGC) has had to shutter some grow houses , while Aurora Cannabis (ACB) has burned through much of its cash. Only in the U.S. has the cannabis industry shown solid financial performance.
All of Aphria’s operations have been deemed “essential” by governments and remain up and running, said Simon. The Covid-19 pandemic triggered a burst of demand that continued into March, he said.
Going forward, however, the pandemic could hurt cannabis sales and Aphria suspended guidance for the current year. Its financial chief Carl Merton told listeners that the province of Ontario had stopped making wholesale purchases for a couple of weeks. “There is just so much uncertainty,” Merton said.
Still, Aphria’s financial performance put other Canadian producers to shame. Total revenue for the February quarter doubled, to C$144 million—most of that from a pharmaceutical distribution business that it acquired in Germany. Cannabis sales volumes doubled to 14 metric tons and brought in C$56 million, which represented a 65% revenue increase.
On its sales of recreational product, Aphria got C$5.47 a gram and was able to grow the stuff at a cash cost of C$0.93 a gram. Unlike its peers, Aphria’s pot sales in the quarter suffered no inventory write-downs or product returns.
Earnings in the February quarter were C$6 million, or 2 Canadian cents a share, with a similar amount of cash flow.
Aphria said it is being cautious in its rollout of second-generation cannabis products such as edibles and beverages. While rival Canopy has stumbled with an ambitious investment in cannabis-infused beverages, Aphria first focused on vape products, and Simon said it now enjoys a 77% market share in vapes in Ontario. Edibles and beverages will arrive soon.
With its balance sheet fortified by a recent C$100 million stock sale, and no debt due for a year, Aphria said it is in a position to make acquisitions around Canada’s battered cannabis business—where most producers have run low on cash and can’t raise much from disenchanted public markets.
“What a difference a year makes!” said Simon.