Kristine Owram, Bloomberg
Two new Canadian exchanged-traded funds aim to give investors exposure to the U.S. and international marijuana markets, sectors that have largely been avoided by other ETFs because of legal uncertainties.
Horizons ETFs Management Canada Inc. filed a preliminary prospectus to launch the Junior Marijuana Growers Index ETF, which includes companies with operations in the U.S. This is in contrast to Horizons’s existing Marijuana Life Sciences Index ETF, which avoids U.S. growers and focuses on larger companies with ancillary exposure like Scotts Miracle-Gro Co.
Separately, Evolve Funds Group Inc. filed Friday to launch the world’s first actively managed marijuana ETF under the ticker SEED, which will initially focus on Canadian-listed companies with the goal of buying securities in other countries as legalization spreads. It also has the ability to invest up to 10 percent of the fund in private companies.
“Short and medium term we’ll most likely see more legalization in different countries and if that’s the case then you’re going to start to see more companies listed in markets like Germany," said Raj Lala, chief executive officer of Toronto-based Evolve, in a phone interview. "The next wave of growth is going to come from globalization.
"The new Horizons ETF will be listed on Canada’s Aequitas NEO Exchange instead of the Toronto Stock Exchange, where Horizons’s other marijuana ETF trades. Evolve is currently talking to both exchanges. The TSX has said it may delist marijuana stocks which run afoul of U.S. federal law.
While pot is legal in several U.S. states including California and Colorado, it’s illegal federally. Canada plans to legalize it across the country this summer. This discrepancy has created a valuation gap between pot stocks with Canadian operations and those with U.S. businesses, and prompted more companies with U.S. assets to list north of the border on exchanges like NEO and the Canadian Securities Exchange.
Companies with U.S. operations that could benefit from inclusion in the new Horizons ETF include CannaRoyalty Corp., iAnthus Capital Holdings Inc., MPX Bioceutical Corp., Marapharm Ventures Inc., Friday Night Inc. and Sunniva Inc., according to Beacon Securities analyst Vahan Ajamian.
“The next month would be a good time to start acquiring shares of U.S. operators and smaller Canadian cannabis companies," Ajamian wrote in a note published Thursday. "Should it go forward as planned, share prices and liquidity of U.S. operators could be disproportionately impacted by the new buying power of an ETF.
"The two existing marijuana exchange-traded funds -- Horizons’s and the U.S.-traded ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF -- have captivated investors. Horizons’s Life Sciences ETF attracted C$126 million ($100 million) of inflows in the first week of 2018, the most of any Canadian fund over that period, according to National Bank Financial. It now has assets of C$773 million.
Alternative Harvest saw its assets swell from $5.7 million on Dec. 26, its first trading day, to $355 million on Thursday. That ETF holds more than half its assets in Canada, with top holdings including Canopy Growth Corp. The BI Global Cannabis Competitive Peers Index has nearly tripled since Nov. 1.
“With the change in the capital markets, the growth of the cannabis sector generally, it’s opened the door for us to be able to create an ETF that is much more specialized for marijuana growers," Steve Hawkins, co-chief executive officer of Toronto-based Horizons, said in a phone interview.
"This is going to be a higher-risk product," said Hawkins. "It’s going to be significantly more volatile in our estimation."