The frenzy surrounding Canadian marijuana stocks, fueled by the country's march toward legalization, intensified Tuesday after shares of one producer rose as much as fivefold in Toronto.
ICC International Cannabis Corp. debuted on the TSX Venture Exchange and closed 356 per cent higher at $1.14. The Uruguayan company is one of several marijuana companies to post spectacular gains in Canadian trading this year.
The federal government plans to legalize recreational use in 2017, and the country's Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation is due to deliver a report on the subject to the government on Wednesday, although its findings may not be known publicly until next year. If legalization occurs along expected timelines, there will be about 3.8 million legal recreational users of marijuana across Canada by 2021 and the potential for $6-billion of sales, Canaccord Genuity analysts Matt Bottomley and Neil Maruoka said Monday in a note.
The amount of capital flowing into publicly marijuana companies listed in Canada is causing "wild fluctuations" in share prices, according to PI Financial analyst Jason Zandberg. There's a sea change in attitudes towards the burgeoning marijuana market, he said, and investors are looking to Canada because more difficult to invest in U.S. cannabis companies as they're only legal in certain states.
"For us, this is the most interesting place to be trading," ICC Chief Executive Officer Guillermo Delmonte said in an interview in Bloomberg's Toronto office. "Canada is the market that is more familiarized and has more background about cannabis companies."
Despite its surging stock price, ICC remains a small-cap, with a market valuation of $132.4-million. But some of its peers have grown considerably in size. Canopy Growth Corp., for example, a Canadian medical-marijuana producer with just $18.1-million of revenue in the year through September, has jumped 277 per cent in 2016 for a market capitalization of $1.3-billion. Aphria Inc. and Aurora Cannabis Inc., two other Canadian suppliers, are up 280 percent and 349 percent respectively for the year for market values of $478.8-million and $670.6-million.
ICC surged as much as 14 per cent Wednesday and rose 3.5 per cent to $1.18 at 10:54 a.m. in Toronto. Aurora gained 5.7 per cent, while Canopy Growth added 0.4 per cent and Aphria climbed 1.4 per cent.
The task force's report will be released once ministers have had a chance to review the recommendations, Radey Barrack, spokesman for Bill Blair, a lawmaker and parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, said last week.
The government may hold off on releasing details from the report until 2017 and it could be negative for existing marijuana distributors if it suggests a delayed timeline on sales, Mr. Zandberg said.
"The expectations are so high in the sector," he said in a telephone interview from Vancouver. "It's hard to think of what could be in a report that would actually be an upside surprise given how high the expectations are right now."
ICC is focusing for now on growth in South America, particularly in Argentina and Brazil, and in Europe, Delmonte said. It doesn't have plans to enter the Canadian market. The company expects to get the "green light" from the Uruguayan government to distribute recreational pot to pharmacies by the end of the year, and is readying a second plant to produce hemp and medicinal extracts around March or April of 2017, he said.