Investors purchasing vaping stocks now in order to secure big gains later are in a precarious position. The market for vape products is full of potential and windfalls are clearly there for the taking.
However, the vaping market is squarely in the crosshairs of regulatory bodies and under intense scrutiny. Investors are acutely aware that vaping companies with the ability to navigate the regulatory roadblocks will be at a distinct advantage.
The stocks of vaping companies that can’t overcome these hurdles simply won’t last.
FDA Hurdles Shape the Future of Vaping Stocks
The FDA has allowed vape products to remain on the market but more oversight is on the way.
Prior legislation which stated manufacturers would be required to retroactively apply for FDA approval by May 12, 2020 has been pushed back to September 9. Manufacturers will have up to a year from that date to continue selling vape products.
By the end of that period companies will have to have become FDA compliant. Thus, market risk is high given the implications for vaping companies and their stock. There is a real possibility that the FDA imposes outright bans on multiple vaping brands. In that case, the stock of those affected brands will dramatically decline in value, if not collapse entirely.
Yet the choice remains clear: companies must submit their products to FDA regulatory scrutiny to have any chance of remaining on U.S. shelves. Companies that don’t will be removed from shelves.
What Must Vaping Companies Prove to the FDA?
Companies must provide proof that their products demonstrate a net benefit to public health. The crux of their argument will be simple: the benefit their products provide in switching cigarette smokers to healthier alternatives outweighs the downside represented to younger consumers.
A Pay to Play Barrier
FDA regulations are effectively going to eliminate smaller competitors in the vaping sector. Turning Point Brands (NYSE:TPB) has stated that it expects to spend $15-$18 million on the FDA’s PMTA (PreMarket Tobacco Product Applications) process.
Certain smaller companies will find this to be prohibitively expensive. Companies in that position are apt to go under. Thus, larger vaping companies seeking to gain significant U.S. market share will be at an advantage.
Despite the costs, 30 applications for FDA approval of vaping products are currently pending processing.
Big Players Will Carve Out A Big Slice of Profits
A few years ago Altria (NYSE:MO) had its own e-cigarette brands. However, they didn’t garner enough market share. Altria then bought a 35% stake in Juul. Unfortunately, that investment went sour after the Juul scandal and federal lawsuits. Juul is not publicly traded.
Altria paid $12.8 billion for that 35% stake in Juul, and would of course like to see a return on that investment. The company is currently working with Juul in preparing the latter’s submission for FDA approval. Altria’s history in the tobacco industry along with their legal resources bode well for Juul gaining FDA approval.
Turning Point Brands is another important name for investors interested in vaping for the near term. The company hasn’t yet released notification to the public regarding its FDA PMTA application but it is almost certainly going to do so.
TPB stock currently trades near $28.50 per share. Shares have lost ground over the past year having fallen from over $50 in July 2019, but have remained fairly steady over the past 9 months. The company also declared a 5 cent dividend on May 27, which may interest dividend investors seeking shares in growth companies.
Reynolds American (NYSE:RAI) has already submitted an application for FDA approval. Its Vuse products and long standing history in the tobacco industry mean it should be a prominent player in the space for some time to come. The company is part of British American Tobacco (NYSE:BTI) but trades separately.
Vaping Stocks Outside U.S. Indexes
NJOY Holdings Inc., has already submitted an application to the FDA for regulatory approval of its vaping products. However, like Juul, this company isn’t yet publicly traded.
Chinese vaping company Smoore International Holdings recently held its IPO, raising $918 million in Hong Kong. The company’s shares do not trade on U.S. indexes.
Smoore reported $308 million in profits in 2019 and its IPO was the largest in Hong Kong thus far in 2020.
Vaping Shares Moving Forward
Investors interested in vaping stocks will have to wait and see how the FDA responds to the current applications of the respective companies. It’s a fair bet that the 3 publicly-listed brands above will gain FDA approval. NJOY has not done an IPO, and thus isn’t publicly traded. But it is a company to keep an eye on.
Among those 30 applications seeking approval there are likely to be some which are denied. But until investors have more information a safe bet today is that the larger companies above will have staying power. Investors who want a piece of the vaping sector should start there.
As news is released regarding FDA decisions, investors can then reassess potential trades.
Alex Sirois is a freelance contributor to InvestorPlace whose personal stock investing style is focused on long-term, buy-and-hold, wealth-building stock picks. Having worked in several industries from e-commerce to translation to education and utilizing his MBA from George Washington University, he brings a diverse set of skills through which he filters his writing.