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Inside the Market ‘POT’ stock symbol to be assigned via lottery due to high demand

It’s a rare moment when a ticker symbol generates envy, desire and great demand. But for an exploding cannabis industry, the imminent availability of POT may be it.

The Canadian Press

It’s a rare moment when a ticker symbol generates envy, desire and great demand. But for an exploding cannabis industry, the imminent availability of POT may be it.

The Canadian stock exchanges say they will hold a lottery to determine which cannabis company gets the ticker, which became available when Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan yielded POT in early 2018 upon its merger with Agrium Inc., creating a company called Nutrien. Exchange rules mandate an abandoned ticker stay dormant for 13 months, which means POT can be reused in just a few weeks.

In a joint statement, the four Canadian exchanges said they’re responding to “significant interest” from issuers – companies already listed – and applicants to list their shares. A lottery, they acknowledged, is a departure from their normal symbol-reservation procedures.

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While the joint statement suggests exchange-traded funds are not eligible, The Globe and Mail spoke to fund companies Tuesday that said they believed they could apply and had expressed interest.

There will be no application fee. The exchanges will give out POT on Jan. 30, and the winner will have 90 days to either change their ticker or obtain a listing. The symbol is non-transferable.

And yet, not every cannabis company may apply. A firm that has a pot-themed ticker will run into issues in the United States, where marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and the exchanges have been gun-shy about such tickers. A spokesman for Canopy Growth Corp. said in an interview with The Globe last year that when his company approached the New York Stock Exchange for a listing, it was told it could not take its Toronto Stock Exchange ticker, WEED, across the border. It settled for CGC instead.

Aurora Cannabis Inc. (ACB), Cronos Group Inc. (CRON) and Aphria Inc. (APHA) are all listed on both the TSX and a U.S. exchange and use the same ticker in both places. Aphria changed its Canadian ticker to match the U.S. one it obtained in October.

HEXO Corp. applied in late December and CannTrust Holdings Inc. applied last week to list on the NYSE.

There are now at least 60 public cannabis companies worth at least $100-million in market capitalization, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

There are also several pot-themed ETFs, but some said Tuesday they’ll stick with the names and tickers they’ve already spent tidy sums marketing.

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Horizons ETFs Management (Canada) Inc. launched Canada’s largest marijuana exchange-traded fund under the ticker HMMJ in April, 2017, when Potash was still an independent company but had announced plans to merge. Horizons will not be looking to acquire the POT ticker to replace its existing marijuana fund.

Mark Noble, the company’s senior vice-president of ETF strategy, said that while POT certainly is a “catchy ticker,” HMMJ is already a strong brand.

“Since launching in 2017, HMMJ has attracted a solid momentum, and that is not something we would want to change,” Mr. Noble said.

Still, the company, which Mr. Noble said was told it could apply for the POT ticker, is looking to enter the lottery for a potential product in the cannabis sector.

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