Aurora Cannabis ramping up production but recreational pot shortages will likely linger

Click to play video: 'Some Alberta retailers calling for marijuana supply chain to be fixed'
Some Alberta retailers calling for marijuana supply chain to be fixed
Oct. 29, 2018: As cannabis shortages continue across Canada, even the AGLC's website has almost nothing available for buyers. As Fletcher Kent reports, some say the supply chain needs to be fixed – Oct 29, 2018

Aurora Cannabis saw “strong demand” for recreational pot during the initial few weeks of legalization in Canada and it expects consumer appetite to continue to outstrip supply for “some time.”

The Edmonton-based pot producer was able to meet “just about all” of its supply obligations leading up to and after pot for adult use was legalized on Oct. 17, but it will take time to ramp up its cannabis production in the coming quarters, said Cam Battley, Aurora’s chief corporate officer.

READ MORE: More Edmonton cannabis stores face supply shortages; demand ‘way more than anticipated’

“We’ve heard the discomfort of provinces who across the board have not been able to achieve sufficient supply,” he told a conference call with financial analysts discussing the company’s latest financial results.

“We, we think, have done better than other companies, our peers. We will be ramping up, we will be able to pick up some of the slack soon. But we can’t do that immediately.”

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The cannabis producer’s comments came as it reported its results for the three months ended Sept. 30. During the first quarter of its 2019 financial year it delivered revenues of $29.7 million, more than triple the $8.2 million during the same period last year. It also posted a profit of $104.2 million, up from nearly $3.6 million a year ago, boosted by an unrealized non-cash gain on derivatives and marketable securities.

READ MORE: Aurora Cannabis reports revenue surge in Q1, ‘strong’ legal pot sales

The average net selling price was $9.19 per gram in the quarter, up 12 per cent compared with a year ago, boosted by an increase in cannabis extracts sold.

Analyzing the performance of marijuana companies is difficult because of accounting rules used in the agriculture industry that require companies to put a value on their pot plants before they are harvested, and approaches differ between producers on how to apply these guidelines.

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READ MORE: How much weed was sold on Canada’s legalization day, province-by-province

With the legalization of recreational cannabis on Oct. 17 — making Canada the second country in the world after Uruguay to do so — the market for pot has opened up.

The roll-out of adult pot use in Canada has been plagued with problems including product shortages in many markets, as demand has outstripped supply.

Some government entities tasked with the sales and distribution of recreational cannabis in various provinces have said they are receiving less product than expected and have warned the shortages could last for months.

READ MORE: Edmonton marijuana enthusiasts line up at cannabis stores on legalization day

Aurora’s results did not encompass recreational cannabis sales post-legalization, but management did provide some initial insights into how the roll-out has gone.

Although not all provinces and territories were providing cannabis sales details, Aurora said the adult use market for the company has been a “success” thus far, with its products ranking among the top-selling products and brands in many of the provinces the it committed to supplying.

LISTEN: Ryan Kaye of Four20 Premium Market joins Rob Breakenridge to describe the challenges in running a retail cannabis store with low supply

Aurora brands accounted for roughly 30 per cent of the total market supplied through the Ontario Cannabis Store, while it also had the top four best-selling dried flower products in British Columbia, the company said.

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Martin Landry, an analyst with GMP Securities, said it was a larger market share than was expected for the company, particularly in Ontario.

“We were pleasantly surprised by the traction their products are getting in the retail market,” he said.

Alcanna Inc., which operates five Nova Cannabis stores in Alberta and in which Aurora has a 25 per cent stake, saw $3.7 million in sales during the first 19 days, Battley said Monday.

Aurora noted the revenue for its latest quarter included about $600,000 from its initial shipments received by provinces in the final days of September ahead of the legalization.

READ MORE: Where’s my pot? Backlogs, shortages plague first week of legalization

The company added that during the three months ending Sept. 30 and subsequently the company has made “significant progress towards increasing its production capacity, including receipt of various sales and production licenses.”

For example, in September, it received its production license from Health Canada for its Aurora Eau facility in Lachute, Que., and opened its doors on Nov. 5.

Aurora is aiming to ramp up production from an annualized run rate of 70,000 kilograms to 150,000 kilograms.

The cannabis producer could sell every gram it produces between now and June into the adult use market, said chief executive Terry Booth, citing the assessment of the company’s production team.

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“And when we have extra supply, which we will… We will allow that for sale in the adult usage market. Remember that the medical market and the European market can fetch us more dough, full stop,” he told analysts.

The company’s focus remains the international medical market, particularly in the EU, Booth said.

“The future is bright for the medical cannabis system and we’re a medical cannabis company globally… This adult usage is just small sliver of a very big piece of pie.”

As of 12:30 p.m. on Monday, only 18 of the 117 products listed on the Alberta Gaming Liquor and Cannabis website — the only legal online cannabis retailer in Alberta — were not “out of stock.”

— With a file from Global News

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