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Maker of Marlboro cigarettes turning to pot
08 December 2018, 04:57 | Hattie Nash
By Harry Brumpton and Uday Sampath Kumar
Altria can nominate four directors, including one independent director, to the Cronos board, giving it 4-to-3 control.
This will bring the megabucks investment up to the same level as the CAN $4bn (US $3bn / £2.3bn) which Constellation Brands spent earlier this year when they bought out Canopy Growth Corp., a cannabis producer also based in Canada. Cronos now finds itself among a small pool of well-capitalized cannabis companies that can expand its offerings more effectively in Canada, internationally and, once it becomes federally legal, the United States. Canada legalized recreational cannabis in October.
Cronos has benefited in recent months from Canada's legalization of recreational marijuana as well as more states jumping on the recreational and medical pot bandwagon last month through voter initiatives.
- Last summer, Tilray Inc., a medical marijuana company in British Columbia, became the first marijuana business to complete an initial public offering on a major USA stock exchange, raising $153 million to expand its operations as Canada prepared to legalize the drug nationwide.
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The Marlboro maker's $2.4 billion bet on Cronos is by far the largest move by Big Tobacco into cannabis, and bodes well for the overall sector, said Martin Landry, an analyst with GMP Securities. The Altria-Cronos deal is "encouraging" given the broad potential uses for cannabis such as in pharmaceuticals and health and wellness products, she said in a note to clients.
Canadian marijuana company, Canopy Growth, for example, has received a multibillion dollar investment from Corona owner Constellation Brands, CNN reported.
The Canadian subsidiary of Molson Coors (TAP) has a joint venture with The Hydropothecary Corporation to produce cannabis-infused drinks for the Canadian market.
Cronos's stock closed 22 per cent higher at $17.06 in Toronto, while shares of Altria fell 0.4 per cent.
Prior to Friday's announcement, Cronos had confirmed reports that it was in talks with Altria.
It will also acquire warrants that will allow Altria to buy more stock at $19 per share within four years.
Cronos plans to prioritize research and development, innovation and developing brands.
The deal structure was driven by an appetite on Cronos' part to entertain discussions with other parties, although it is not guaranteed that any future discussions will result in product partnerships or new deals, according to one person familiar with the matter.
Separately on Friday, Altria said it would discontinue some of its e-cigarette brands, including all of MarkTen and Green Smoke e-vaper products, based on their financial performance and will take a related pretax charge of $200 million in the fourth quarter.
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