‘Fab Four’ Emerge In Marijuana Market

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Investor says Curaleaf, Green Thumb among industry’s strongest
Sales surge for many firms, but profitability questions linger

With more than a dozen cannabis companies reporting earnings last week, what stood out for investors was the most basic concept in business: growth.

Almost across the board, big companies reported sales gains approaching 100% or more, despite tough comparisons from a year ago, when consumers stockpiled cannabis because of the pandemic. There are still questions about profitability for some, and middling stock performances this year reflect that, but investors are starting to recognize signs that the industry is maturing.

Todd Harrison, founding partner of CB1 Capital Management, a New York-based cannabis-focused fund, even thinks there’s a hierarchy shaking out akin to the tech industry. He calls Curaleaf Holdings Inc., Green Thumb Industries Inc., Trulieve Cannabis Corp. and Cresco Labs Inc. a “Fab Four” of the cannabis sector, taking over from the Canadian growers that previously dominated. Harrison compared their ascendancy to the rise of Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google – the FANG stocks – over the old dot-com-era companies.

“Primary metrics often determine the success of an investment,” Harrison, whose fund already has a position in those four cannabis names, said in a newsletter. He also suggested Verano Holdings Corp., which went public this year, may also belong on that list.

Curaleaf’s sales jumped 166% last quarter from a year ago, and rose 20% over the prior three-month period, even as consumers resumed spending on travel, nights out and other discretionary categories. “We grew almost double other companies in the market,” Chairman Boris Jordan told me in a phone interview. “And there will be further acceleration into next year.”

Green Thumb, the second biggest multistate operator by market cap, boosted revenue 85% year-over-year, and 14% over the prior quarter. Verano reported sales up 164% over the same period a year ago. Cresco’s were up 123%. Trulieve’s were up 78%.

Despite the growth, the velocity of these companies sometimes goes unrecognized outside the cannabis industry. Tech companies often steal the spotlight as high-growth names, but many in that industry — especially the biggest firms — would envy the kind of gains being reported in the marijuana market.

“Today really is day one for the great American cannabis growth story,” Green Thumb Chief Executive Officer Ben Kovler said on a call with analysts. In a phone interview, Kovler said the growth reflects an unmet appetite for cannabis broadly. “It’s as simple as there is a lot of demand for cannabis from American consumers.”