Why Aphria Inc. Ought to Ditch TSX

Aphria Inc. (TSX:APH), one of the best run Canadian cannabis companies, ought to call the TSX’s bluff and move to another exchange. 

| More on:

Two of my Fool.ca colleagues recently warned that Aphria Inc. (TSX:APH) is playing with fire by holding interests in U.S. cannabis businesses because that potentially puts it offside with both the U.S. Attorney General’s office and the mighty Toronto Stock Exchange.

I have three words for Aphria CEO Vic Neufeld: Call their bluff!

What’s the real risk here?

I believe in assessing stocks based on what I know rather than speculation by others. In recent months there has been a great deal of chatter about the TSX rattling its sword to keep all of its listed companies in line.

The TSX is concerned about Aphria because of its dealings in the U.S. — a nation so hopelessly divided at the moment that the exchange is concerned that Neufeld will be thrown in jail south of the border — taking the good name of the exchange down with him.

I’m being facetious, of course, but in my opinion, the exchange ought to stay out of Aphria’s business for two reasons.

“The U.S. government continues to take a tough stance on marijuana, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions only further complicated things when he stated that federal laws on pot could still be enforced in states where the drug has been legalized,” wrote David Jagielski on January 12. “This legal ambiguity creates a lot of uncertainty for investors, and it’s hard to understand why Aphria would risk running into problems down the road.”

No legitimate business wants to run afoul of the law, especially not a growing cannabis company with a market cap of $3.5 billion.

However, Americans take state rights very seriously.

In a recent poll by HuffPost/YouGov, only 30% of Americans said they would back a move by federal prosecutors to stop the sale and use of marijuana in states where pot is legal. Aphria’s U.S. investments are in Florida and Arizona, where medical marijuana is legal.

Jeff Sessions can do and say whatever he wants, but should the rights of Americans be trampled upon in states where medical and recreational marijuana is legal, you can be sure that there will be years of litigation and court proceedings to protect those rights.

What about the TSX?

As I said earlier, the TSX ought to mind its own business. There’s a difference between believing a listed company is doing something illegal and a lawyer’s opinion that they could be.

However, if the TSX continues to play a game of chicken, I believe that Neufeld ought to take his company’s business elsewhere. There are places to list right here in Canada that would gladly have it — the Canadian Securities Exchange being one; Aequitas Neo Exchange being another. 

The CSE has 53 cannabis issuers listed on its exchange; 17 of them doing business in the U.S. Those 17 companies account for 25% of the CSE’s entire market cap. I’m sure CSE CEO Richard Carlton would have no problem welcoming Aphria into the fold. 

Fool.ca contributor Joey Frenette likens Aphria’s situation to Valeant Pharmaceuticals Intl Inc. (TSX:VRX)(NYSE:VRX) in that Aphria could be forced to sell its U.S. assets quickly at prices that are less than optimal in order to comply with TSX rules and the U.S. Attorney General.

I fail to see how one has anything to do with the other.

Valeant had to unload assets or its bankers would have come calling, hat in hand.

Aphria, on the other hand, has done everything to comply with the laws in the jurisdictions in which they operate. There’s almost zero chance that the company would not be given an opportunity to sell those assets in a way that meets the needs of shareholders.

Chances are, however, it won’t come to that.

Bottom line

The TSX is proving once more why exchanges like the CSE are growing in stature. The TSX’s sabre rattling is both perplexing and counterproductive to building an entrepreneurial, pro-business environment for companies to raise capital in this country.

Take a pass on Aphria stock if you must, but don’t let your decision be guided by conjecture and speculation because at the end of the day, Aphria does have options — good ones, in fact.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium service or advisor. We’re Motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer, so we sometimes publish articles that may not be in line with recommendations, rankings or other content.

Fool contributor Will Ashworth has no position in any stocks mentioned. Tom Gardner owns shares of Valeant Pharmaceuticals. The Motley Fool owns shares of Valeant Pharmaceuticals.

More on Investing

TFSA and coins
Dividend Stocks

Maximize Your Retirement Income: How to Turbocharge Your TFSA Returns

TFSA investors could pick different strategies to boost returns.

Read more »

dividends grow over time

Dividend Aristocrats: Canadian Stocks That Keep Paying Year After Year

Top Canadian stocks like Bank of Nova Scotia (TSX:BNS) also qualify as Dividend Aristocrats that you can trust for the…

Read more »

Golden crown on a red velvet background
Dividend Stocks

Canadian Utilities Is a “Dividend King,” But I Like This Stock Even More

Canadian Utilities (TSX:CU) stock is a solid dividend provider, but there's more to look at then just how much you're…

Read more »

Path to retirement
Dividend Stocks

Retire Rich: TFSA Stocks to Power Your Golden Years

Investing in your TFSA early has huge benefits. Here’s a look at some stocks for your TFSA that can power…

Read more »

stock research, analyze data
Tech Stocks

2 Artificial Intelligence-Powered Growth Stocks to Buy Right Now

These growth stocks are excellent buys today, and much of the reason for that is powered by their use of…

Read more »

Retirees sip their morning coffee outside.

TFSA: 3 Top TSX Stocks for Your $6,500 Contribution

These three TSX stocks could be ideal additions to your TFSA in this uncertain outlook.

Read more »

edit Sale sign, value, discount

Dollarama: A Bargain Stock for a Bargain Hunter

Dollarama continues to fire on all cylinders, and with it now trading off its 52-week high, it's one of the…

Read more »

Bank Stocks

Is This the Perfect Time to Invest in Canadian Banking Stocks?

Canadian banking stocks have continued to perform pretty poorly over the last few months, but that could mean a great…

Read more »