Tilray Inc. is looking to become the next big publicly traded medical cannabis producer.
According to people familiar with the matter, the British Columbia-based company is working with BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc. and New York-based investment bank Cowen and Co. on an initial public offering. At this time, Tilray is weighing a listing south of the border, the people said, asking not to be identified because the details are not public.
As Canada’s last major privately owned marijuana grower, Tilray has watched from the sidelines while dozens of other cannabis companies have gone public in Canada to great fanfare and used their shares as currency to make acquisitions.
On the other hand, Tilray is one of four North American cannabis assets owned by Seattle-based private equity firm Privateer Holdings Inc., which has raised about US$250-million during the past five years to help finance these businesses. In February, Tilray raised $60-million to fuel its expansion in Canada and abroad, marking the first time outside investments have been made directly into the grower.
When asked for comment, Zack Hutson, a spokesman for Tilray and Privateer, said by e-mail: “Tilray will need additional capital over time. We have various routes to that – additional rounds of financing, maybe the public markets. We will do the right thing at the right time.”
BMO declined to comment and bankers at Cowen did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
On Monday, Tilray said it has appointed three female directors to its five-person board, noting in a news release that it has one of the first majority female-led boards in the nascent, male-dominated sector.
Founded in 2013, Tilray is selling its medical marijuana products in 10 countries on five continents. The company is working with generic-drug maker Sandoz Canada Inc. to develop products that cannot be smoked and are co-branded.
To serve Canada’s recreational system once it becomes legal, the company launched a Toronto-based affiliate called High Park Co. It says it has signed contracts to sell its bud and oils into the Quebec, Manitoba and Yukon retail markets.
In addition to Tilray, Privateer also owns cannabis media platform Leafly and two other cannabis brands that are sold in multiple U.S. states where it is legal to do so. However, in the United States, cannabis is allowed in certain states but still prohibited under federal law. The conflicted legal regime has kept many large, multinational companies – including the major Canadian banks and markets operator TMX Group Ltd. – away for fear of breaching federal law.
This is the latest in a string of mandates for BMO, which in January became the first big Canadian bank to lead an equity offering in cannabis by working with Canopy Growth Corp. Its bankers have also advised Aurora Cannabis Inc. and Hiku Brands Co. Ltd. on two recent acquisitions.
And the bank is fresh off its first cannabis conference in Toronto. It recently appointed an analyst to cover the space and she has initiated coverage of Canopy and rival grower Aphria Inc. with buy ratings.
CIBC World Markets Inc. is now also entering the marijuana sector. In late May, Canopy Rivers Corp., a sister company of Canopy Growth, said it is working with CIBC and GMP Securities LP to raise $60-million and go public on the TSX Venture Exchange.
By listing in the United States, Tilray would be joining other public Canadian cannabis growers. In February, Cronos Group Inc. listed its shares on Nasdaq, while Canopy Growth made its debut on the New York Stock Exchange last month. Also on Monday, the shares of two small Canadian producers started trading on the TSXV: 48North Cannabis Corp. and James E. Wagner Cultivation Ltd.