Altria’s 2nd Biggest Mistake: Cronos Continues To Wither

Altria’s 2nd Biggest Mistake: Cronos Continues To Wither

Source: Cronos


Altria ( MO) made two huge, flashy financial investments in December 2018: investing $1.8 billion into Cronos ( CRON) and $128 billion into Juul. Neither financial investment has actually paid dividends: since March 31, Altria is down $8.6 billion on Juul (67%) and $536 million on Cronos (31%).

Cronos has actually spent one-quarter of the cash it got from Altria. About half of this money went towards the $300 million purchase of Lord Jones CBD. That organisation saw its earnings decrease 19%sequentially to $2.2 million in the first quarter. Till company improves, Cronos paid 34 x run-rate sales for a company with 50%gross margins in a competitive sector with couple of barriers to entry.

The company’s marijuana organisation, meanwhile, has reported mixed results. Earnings have increased over the previous 5 quarters, improving Cronos to the 7th-largest Canadian cannabis company from its previous position as 9th-largest. The company has likewise impaired inventory for 3 consecutive quarters and substantially overemphasized profits two times last year, prompting an SEC query

Regardless of these problems, Cronos trades for a premium over all its considerable peers. In my view, the business does not require this premium, and I plan to continue avoiding any financial investment in Cronos.

Cronos Dreams Big: Little Cannabis Maker Sells Global Vision

Huge financial investment; questionable recipient: Seventeen months ago, Altria invested $1.8 billion into Cronos.

The business had likewise considered a financial investment in Aphria ( OTC: APHA), but ultimately chose Cronos as its cannabis partner.

Altria’s investment was fantastic for Cronos however really doubtful for Altria itself.

Cronos has spent one quarter of the funds from Altria on a CBD company and losses from operations and expansion.

Cronos has actually spent one-quarter of the funds from Altria on a CBD company and losses from operations and expansion.

Thanks in part to Altria’s financial investment, Cronos has actually been able to decently improve its standing among international marijuana companies.

At the time of Altria’s financial investment, Cronos was the 9th-largest Canadian marijuana business by earnings, trailing behind each of Canopy Development ( CGC), Aurora ( ACB), Aphria, Tilray ( TLRY), CannTrust ( CTST), HEXO Corp. ( HEXO), Organigram ( OGI) and Supreme Cannabis ( SPRWF) (in descending order of income).

Cronos invests 4 times as much on running expenses as it offers in cannabis. Source: Author, based upon company filings.

Cronos launched its first-quarter outcomes on May 8th Shares fell modestly on these outcomes. The highlights of these outcomes consist of:

  • Earnings grew 15%to $8.4 million. Cannabis earnings grew 36%sequentially, while CBD income fell 19%.
  • Gross margins were spoiled by inventory disability for the 3rd successive quarter. This resulted in reported gross margins of -77%. Missing problems, CBD gross margins were a healthy 50%, while marijuana gross margins were a miserable 6%.
  • Operating costs of $39 million, or more than 4.5 x greater than income, although they fell 11%sequentially due to one-time costs last quarter.
  • Complimentary cash flow enhanced to a $45 million money burn, a modest improvement from $54 million last quarter. In both quarters, the majority of this burn is due to running losses.
  • Cronos ended the quarter with $1.3 billion in cash, down $171 million from last quarter.

Possibly the very best aspect of these outcomes was the strong development in cannabis income. However, that news was balanced out by very bad marijuana gross margins of just 6%, compared to 48%last quarter.

CBD sales falling is a bad sign for Cronos’ $300 million Lord Jones investment, which I have actually formerly questioned. Falling CBD sales were announced on the very same day that CV Sciences( OTCQB: CVSI), a small independent CBD company, announced its 3rd successive quarter of double-digit CBD profits decreases. Possibly, as I suggested for Charlotte’s Web formerly, the blossom is off the CBD increased across the sector and consumers are tired of paying leading dollar for below-medical dosages of non-intoxicating CBD.

Cronos reports a non-operating gain due to its falling stock price.

Cronos reports a non-operating gain due to its falling stock price. Source: Cronos filings.

Account peculiarity develops positive EPS: Looking for Alpha’s coverage of Cronos incomes likewise highlighted favorable EPS, but this EPS is an accounting quirk.

Due to the nature of Altria’s warrants and top-up rights (anti-dilution provisions), Cronos reports a large non-cash, non-operating profit whenever its share cost falls. Because Cronos shares fell 20%during the first quarter, the company “acquired” $113 million – the same amount that Altria’s warrants declined.

Absent this revaluation, Cronos lost $0.10 per share, up from a $0.15 per share last quarter (also missing the revaluation).


Cronos is very costly based on forward sales while forward EBITDA is negative.

Cronos is very expensive based upon forward sales, while forward EBITDA is negative. Source: The Growth Operation Canadian LP Contrast

Cronos is most costly than its Canadian peers based on forward sales. This premium is most likely based on the company’s really strong balance sheet and its reasonably high forward development potential customers.

In my view, Cronos does not necessitate this premium.

I have been unimpressed with the business’s usage of capital: the associated party purchase of Lord Jones for $300 million was a pricey financial investment in a tiny business operating in an extremely competitive market with few barriers to entry and no durable competitive benefits. I have likewise been unimpressed with its accounting efforts, including overemphasizing earnings in two quarters last year and recording stock disability in 3 consecutive quarters.

I see Cronos as a poorly run mid-sized marijuana business which has actually been a bad steward of Altria’s capital. While Cronos’s costs has been rather modest compared to the free-spending methods of Canopy Development, the cash it has spent has revealed really couple of dividends. It will take a long period of time to make back Cronos’s $300 million financial investment in Lord Jones when the business is creating $2.2 million of revenue at 50%gross margins.

In short, I see Cronos as Altria’s second-largest mistake behind its financial investment in Juul. I do not prepare to start a position in Cronos.

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The Development Operation is the largest neighborhood of marijuana financiers on Seeking Alpha.


Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no strategies to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I composed this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not getting compensation for it (other than from Looking For Alpha). I have no organisation relationship with any company whose stock is pointed out in this article.

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