Cannabis Exec Explains Challenges for Multi-state Operators

George Scorsis, CEO of Liberty Health Sciences, told INN about Liberty Health’s strategy and how he differentiates two types of multi-state operators in the US market.

The play for the US cannabis market has gained value in the eyes of investors, but one executive says not all multi-state operators are the same.

According to George Scorsis, CEO of Liberty Health Sciences (CSE:LHS), the popular multi-state operator of cannabis assets in the US, the business model is not the same all around for the current companies employing it.

In an exclusive interview with the Investing News Network (INN) Scorsis said he understands why investors are bullish on multi-state operators that buy assets across legal states, but views them as operations with a high chaos potential.

“I think those, although quite appealing from a capital market standpoint, are going to be challenged in terms of operational effectiveness, as we take a look long term,” he said.

Liberty instead, Scorsis explained, elected to grow assets in a multi-state strategy since he views the long term play as a better one for this model.

The executive reasoned these operators with diverged assets across the country are “not really a unified operational company,” capable of integrating all the asses acquired, in the scenario cannabis becomes legal overnight in the US.

The legalization of the drug is a discussion point Scorsis is confident will become one of the most heated debates in the upcoming presidential election of 2020.

Cannabis remains illegal under federal laws in the US despite several states legalizing its medical and even recreational use.

Companies have been able to operate in states with legal views on the drug and even raise capital in the favorable Canadian market by reaching investors through the Canadian Securities Exchange (CSE).

Scorsis said Liberty has planned its facilities with a vision of what may take place in the political conversation surrounding the cannabis industry.

Liberty counts with a robust presence in Florida thanks to four active dispensary locations. The company’s website shows five additional dispensary locations are opening some time soon in Florida.

The company is also building up a 387 acre site facility in Gainesville, Florida, which is expected to kick off production in 2019.

When comparing the cannabis industry to the consumer packaged goods (CPG) one, Scorsis said it’s not efficient for a company to be operational in 15 different states, but rather have strategically placed facilities to cover production.

“Florida, whether it becomes federal or not, has a very effective market place that we can address… but if it does open up I know that my Florida facility could probably service all the southeast of the US,” Scorsis said.

The executive expects the cannabis market to look a lot like the alcohol model for distribution, with stores available all around the country but specific facilities creating the product.

“I think many people that are spending a high level of capital on every single state right now and raising capital… is really going to end up to probably not the best use of proceeds from shareholders or the corporation,” he said.

Aphria connection remains possibility for Liberty

Liberty is in a unique position as the company holds a connection with a Canadian licensed producer (LP) that up until recently remained active.

Aphria (TSX:APH) built up Liberty to be its extension into the US market. However, the Canadian company faced a dispute with TMX Group regulators challenging its entry into the US.

Due to the status of cannabis as an illegal substance at the federal level in the US, companies are not legally allowed to grow the plant and raise capital in Canada, according to the regulators of the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) and TSX Venture Exchange (TSXV).

Aphria was eventually forced to divest its assets in the US and in September sold its remaining stake in Liberty.

The producer isn’t entirely out as it still holds a right to purchase back its stake, that will last for the next five years.

When asked how the potential re-entry of Aphria into the picture, Scorsis said based on his expectation of cannabis becoming legal in the US as part of the upcoming presidential election, he expects Aphria will “use Liberty Health Sciences as their horse.”

Investor takeaway

In a research note issued on October 9, Canaccord Genuity kicked off its coverage of Liberty for a target price of C$2 and gave a “Speculative Buy” rating to the operator.

“We believe Liberty is starting to establish a strong presence in Florida’s rapidly growing medical cannabis market,” the report authored by Matt Bottomley, analyst with Canaccord, said.

The investor note also highlighted Liberty is expanding its business with assets and licenses secured in Massachusetts and Ohio. The analyst expects Liberty to reach C$20 million in revenue for the current fiscal year.

Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Cannabis for real-time news updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Bryan Mc Govern, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

Editorial Disclosure: The Investing News Network does not guarantee the accuracy or thoroughness of the information reported in the interviews it conducts. The opinions expressed in these interviews do not reflect the opinions of the Investing News Network and do not constitute investment advice. All readers are encouraged to perform their own due diligence.

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Catch up and get informed with this week's content highlights from Charlotte McLeod, our editorial director.

Top Stories This Week: Powell Gets Fed Nomination, Using Gold in a Market Correction youtu.be

We're back after a break last week with quite a bit to cover in the gold space.

After running up past the US$1,860 per ounce mark midway through November, the yellow metal has taken a tumble. At the time of this writing on Friday (November 26) afternoon, it was sitting just under US$1,790.

Gold's losses this week have been attributed to elements like a stronger US dollar and better Treasury yields, although Jerome Powell's US Federal Reserve chair renomination has pulled other factors into play — some market watchers believe he may move to taper and raise interest rates faster than anticipated.


If the Fed follows its previously laid out timeline for tapering, it will wrap up in mid-2022; the central bank has said it won't raise rates until after that. It has also emphasized that its roadmap may change if necessary.

Looking at the larger picture for gold, I heard recently from Nick Barisheff of BMG Group, who believes the stock market is due for a major correction.

"The market is due for a major correction. What will cause it and when it will happen is anybody's guess — it could be tomorrow, it could be six months from now" — Nick Barisheff, BMG Group

It's impossible to know when this correction will happen, but Nick emphasized the importance of acting before it's too late. He pointed out that investors are typically slow to get out of the market once a crash actually begins — they wait for a turnaround, and by the time it's clear there won't be one, they've experienced big losses.

In his opinion, the solution is to get out of the stock market early and transfer money into gold.

Here's how Nick explained it:

"Instead of taking your money off the table and going into cash … you go to gold (because cash is devaluing daily). Gold will at least hold its own and probably appreciate … so by sitting it out in gold you can wait until the market finishes correcting and then buy back in" — Nick Barisheff, BMG Group

With gold's future in mind, we asked our Twitter followers this week what price they think the metal will be at the end of 2021. By the time the poll closed, most respondents had voted for the US$1,800 to US$1,900 range.

We'll be asking another question on Twitter next week, so make sure to follow us @INN_Resource or follow me @Charlotte_McL to share your thoughts.

Finally, in the cannabis space, INN's Bryan Mc Govern spoke with Dan Ahrens of AdvisorShares to get his thoughts on 2021 trends and what's ahead in 2022.

Dan was candid, and said if he had to choose one word to describe the cannabis market in 2021, it would be "painful." Like many others, he's been disappointed in the industry's performance — while positivity initially ran high due to excitement about potential federal changes in the US, ultimately progress has been slow.

"Cannabis started with a big run-up in January and February ... and things dragged from there" — Dan Ahrens, AdvisorShares

Still, Dan has hope for 2022 and said it will be a "huge year" for cannabis. He believes US reforms will come sooner rather than later, and in his opinion those widely anticipated changes will bring a wave of M&A activity.

Specifically, he expects to see alcohol, tobacco and other consumer packaged goods companies making deals with cannabis players, not just cannabis entities doing transactions with each other.

"Those big alcohol companies, tobacco companies, other consumer packaged goods product companies — they're waiting. They're waiting on the US" — Dan Ahrens, AdvisorShares

Want more YouTube content? Check out our YouTube playlist At Home With INN, which features interviews with experts in the resource space. If there's someone you'd like to see us interview, please send an email to cmcleod@investingnews.com.

And don't forget to follow us @INN_Resource for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Charlotte McLeod, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

Editorial Disclosure: The Investing News Network does not guarantee the accuracy or thoroughness of the information reported in the interviews it conducts. The opinions expressed in these interviews do not reflect the opinions of the Investing News Network and do not constitute investment advice. All readers are encouraged to perform their own due diligence.

gold bars

2020 was a banner year for gold-backed ETF inflows, but interest has lagged this year as investors become more comfortable taking risks.

In 2020, gold-backed exchange-traded fund (ETF) inflows ballooned to an impressive 877 tonnes, marking the largest one year intake in ETF history.

Investor appetite was fueled by economic stimulus mixed with concerns about COVID-19 closures, which together brought risk-averse buyers to the yellow metal in droves, propelling investment demand.

"Over the first three quarters of 2020, gold ETFs accounted for almost two-thirds of total investment demand," notes a monthly ETF report released by the World Gold Council (WGC) in January.


"This is significantly higher than any previous full year. Gold ETF demand was also equivalent to a quarter of the average annual gold mine production over the past five years."

Since then, gold ETF demand has waned as investors become more comfortable taking risks. So far, 2021 has seen outflows of 269.1 tonnes compared to 87.6 tonnes of inflows. Of the first 10 months of the year, six registered net outflows from the ETF segment.

In fact, a large part of gold's muted Q3 price performance has been attributed to a 7 percent decline in demand coming largely from the ETF segment. This trend continued in October, when gold ETF holdings shed 25.5 tonnes.

"Global gold ETF holdings fell to 3,567 tonnes (US$203 billion) during the month — notching year-to-date low levels — as investor appetite for gold diminished in the ETF space following price declines in August and September," an October WGC gold ETF report states.

After two months of pressure pushed the gold price to a six month low at the end of September, October saw the metal begin to rebound from the US$1,750 per ounce range to US$1,819.

Adam Perlaky, senior analyst at the WGC, told the Investing News Network (INN) that gold's price positivity in October was largely driven by growing inflationary tones.

"In recent years, gold has been inversely correlated with nominal interest rates, and yet gold strengthened during the month despite higher nominal rates," he said via email. "This is likely a result of rising inflation expectations, though changes in the relative move in interest rates may have had an impact."

He added, "Though higher rates could be a headwind for gold, broader concerns of inflation and a potential recession highlight gold's value as an effective portfolio hedge."

The role of gold amid uncertainty

Gold's use as a hedge against inflation is likely to come into focus in the coming months, a sentiment that was echoed by Juan Carlos Artigas, head of research at the WGC.

Artigas explained that while some are of the belief that the "elements of high inflation we've seen so far are transitory" and will dissipate, there will be longer-term reverberations from the current inflation, and potential secondary effects from the fiscal and monetary policies that were put in place to restart the economy.

In mid-November, JP Morgan (NYSE:JPM) said it anticipates that the US Federal Reserve will raise rates in September 2022 by 0.25 percent, followed by 25 basis point increases on a quarterly basis until real rates hit zero.

"Gold still can face headwinds from potentially higher interest rates," said Artigas.

"(The) opportunity cost of holding gold is one of the drivers of performance, and especially in the short and the medium term, interest rates tend to influence gold's behavior significantly, especially in a period where investors are looking to understand how central banks will behave."

However, as the head of research at the WGC pointed out, there are also some tailwinds that could move gold higher, including inflation that may not be transient, but more structural.

He also pointed out that interest rates are still historically very low, which has pushed investors to make their portfolios more risky. Hedging against this type of exposure is positive for gold's investment side. Additionally, on the consumer side, US infrastructure spending could also serve as a catalyst to more gold upside.

"What we know historically is that better economic growth tends to support consumption of gold, whether it is in the form of jewelry or technology, and 2021 is a good example of that, where you saw the contraction in gold-backed ETF holdings, you (also) saw an increase in demand coming from jewelry, technology and even bar and coin investment," Artigas commented to INN.

Another factor the researcher is watching is central bank gold holdings, which are on track for a 12th consecutive year of inflows. Artigas noted that a 2021 survey of central bankers conducted by the WGC found that the monetary institutes are interested in "expanding the role that gold has in foreign reserves."

"We do expect central banks to continue to be net buyers," he said, adding, "We have seen investors, especially more strategic longer-term investors, taking advantage of the price pullback that we saw in previous months as an opportunity to add gold to their portfolios."

For investors wanting to look at the strategic role gold has played throughout history, the WGC recently released a five part documentary series titled The Golden Thread.

The price of gold was at the US$1,790 level on November 25.

Don't forget to follow us @INN_Resource for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Georgia Williams, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

Editorial Disclosure: The Investing News Network does not guarantee the accuracy or thoroughness of the information reported in the interviews it conducts. The opinions expressed in these interviews do not reflect the opinions of the Investing News Network and do not constitute investment advice. All readers are encouraged to perform their own due diligence.

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