Shares of Cronos Group Inc. (NASDAQ:CRON), the Canadian medical marijuana producer, have been on a roller coaster ride this year. In the first quarter, Cronos stock more than doubled, but as the quarter drew to a close, investors departed the name, sending the shares tumbling over the course of April and May.
This month, Cronos stock seems to have found round-number support at $14 and is rallying hard off that level. While the stock was pinched on June 11, to the tune of a 2.42% loss, it is still up 28% over just the past week.
One of the obvious catalysts this month for Cronos stock was an upgrade by Bank of America analyst Christopher Carey coupled with an epic, upward price target revision by that analyst. Earlier this month, Carey lifted his rating on Cronos stock to “buy” from “underperform,” the equivalent of a “double upgrade” because there is usually a rating in between “buy” and “underperform.” Additionally, the analyst boosted his price target on Cronos stock to $20 from $13, implying a decent amount of upside from Tuesday’s close of just under $17.
As is the case with so many cannabis stocks, opinions differ on Cronos stock. While Cronos has its share of supporters, there are also skeptical voices. At least one analyst prefers Aphria (NYSE:APHA) to Cronos, though the former is about $1.3 billion smaller than the latter in terms of market value.
Jefferies analyst Owen Bennett said Aphria’s strengths in extraction, capacity and its international strategy are attractive qualities, while noting Cronos stock is richly valued relative to its cannabis equity peer group.
Contributing to the debate on Cronos stock, Stifel analyst Andrew Carter recently initiated coverage of the name with a “tepid” hold rating. However, Carter notes a sector-wide pullback could enable financially sturdy marijuana companies, including Cronos, to possibly scoop up some rivals at discounted valuations.
Cronos has $1.8 billion in cash, one of the more impressive cash hoards in the legalized marijuana industry and one that really stands out when considering the company’s market capitalization is just over $3 billion. That $1.8 billion is the sum tobacco giant Altria Group (NYSE:MO) previously invested in Cronos, and Altria CEO Howard Willard has been open about his company making that investment in Cronos to help medicinal marijuana firm make the moves it needs to make to bolster market share.
Bottom Line on Cronos Stock: Looking South of the Border
Cronos is a Canadian company and while recreational marijuana is legal across that entire country, the real opportunity for the company may lie south of the border in the U.S., where the company is looking to enter the fast-growing cannabidiol (CBD) market.
CBD is the most popular cannabis-based derivative.
Currently, much of the enthusiasm for CBD revolves around hope and speculation. Supporters believe it can be elixir for various medical ailments and other uses, but there is not much in the way of empirical scientific evidence to support those claims. The good news for Cronos stock, assuming the company can effectively execute a foray into the U.S. market, is that the segment is expected to deliver exponential growth.
A recent study by BDS Analytics and Arcview Market Research says the U.S. CBD market could swell to $20 billion by 2024.
“In fact, BDS Analytics is predicting an compound annual growth rate of 49 percent by 2024 across all distribution channels,” reports Forbes. “Also, they expect that the CBD market, combined with THC products, will create a total market of $45 billion for cannabinoids by 2014.”
Bolstering the long-term case for Cronos stock are the various distribution channels for CBD, many of which are mainstream. The ride will include some volatility — that is just the name of the game with cannabis stocks — but Cronos stock is a compelling long-term idea if management executes the CBD opportunity the right way.
As of this writing, Todd Shriber did not own any of the aforementioned securities.