Elixinol Global looks to emerge from the ashes of cannabis collapse
Link copied to
Hopefully there’s nowhere but up to go for one of the biggest victims of last year’s cannabis crash.
Elixinol Global (ASX:EXL) shares have been trading around 16c in recent weeks, down from a high of around $4.50 back in May 2019.
The once red-hot company that rocketed 75 per cent in its January 2018 ASX debut, giving it a value of $180m, now has a market capitalisation of just $30m.
And after having raised $120m from professional investors in the 18 months to mid-2019, Elixinol’s most recent capital raising, in May, was for $11m at a deep 48 per cent discount. (Those shares were sold for 20c, so those who held onto them are currently sitting on paper losses).
Earlier this year, Elixinol was forced to hold a fire sale for its global hemp and medical cannabis assets, including land in the Northern Rivers district of New South Wales where Elixinol had ambitious plans to cultivate cannabis.
After buying the “unique” 60-acre parcel for $2.6m in February 2019, Elixinol ended up selling it just 15 months later for a $40,000 loss.
But after a $32m write-down, and with operating costs reduced by 45 per cent to $17.2m following layoffs that reduced headcount from 98 to 37, Elixinol is a leaner, more focused company in a strong position to turn things around, executive director and chief executive Oliver Horn tells Stockhead.
The company has $16.7m cash at hand, virtually no debt and in July exceeded its forecasts for sales of the hemp-derived dietary supplements and skincare products that now make up most of Elixinol’s business.
“It gives us confidence, we are on an upwards trajectory,” Horn, the former CEO of Swisse Wellness ANZ who joined Elixinol in April, said.
What happened in last year’s cannabis crash is easy to explain, Horn said.
“Everybody tried to get into the market, whether they had the capacity or not. They pumped it and dumped it. A proper gold rush moment.”
A similar thing happened in the Australian wine industry in the 1990s, which led to a glut of wine hitting the market and a subsequent collapse, Horn — a former Treasury Wine Estates executive — said.
During the cannabis boom, “we were extremely bullish on our sourcing requirements, and we were no exception. Everybody did that.”
People drastically overestimated the pace of legalisation and placed huge bets on being able to supply an enormous market that never materialised, Horn said.
But he said that today Elixinol was building a well-established consumer brand selling hemp oil products to the US, Japan, Europe and Australia under a capital-light business model that used third party manufacturing and its own e-commerce websites.
“We feel the global footprint is giving us a global source of revenues,” Horn said. “Everybody’s always talking about the US, but we believe Europe is going to be a huge market.”
The company has deliberately moved away from the cannabis-leaf branding of many marijuana companies in the hopes of appealing to a broader audience.
Elixinol is also watching the regulatory issues in Australia, as many in the industry expect the Therapeutic Goods Administration to very shortly make low-dose CBD oils available at chemists without a prescription.
“This is something that’s really exciting,” Horn said, estimating that 29 out of 30 medical cannabis orders in Australia are currently filled on the black market.
Using back-of-the-envelope calculations, Elixinol sees the low-dose CBD market as being worth $120m in three years, Horn said.
Horn is optimistic about the future of the company despite its struggles last year.
“We are a stable player who takes quality, safety, and efficacy seriously,” he said. “We’ve got the future in front of us. It’s a really exciting position to be in.”