February 7, 2020 / 2:15 PM / in 4 months

Aurora Cannabis' dismal growth view, near-term hurdles drag on shares

Feb 7 (Reuters) - U.S.-listed shares of Aurora Cannabis slumped nearly 18% on Friday after the pot producer issued a bleak outlook and said it plans to book up to C$1 billion ($751.15 million) in charges, as it struggles with high costs and a slow roll out of retail stores in Canada.

Canadian weed producers, which had once banked on soaring profits once the country legalized recreational marijuana, have been hit by fewer-than-expected new stores, low prices and oversupply.

Aurora joins other major licensed producers including Tilray Inc and Hexo Corp in announcing job cuts, emphasizing a push towards faster profitability amid rising impatience among investors.

Aurora on Thursday also announced the exit of founder and Chief Executive Officer Terry Booth and 500 job cuts.

“Although we don’t view the departure of Mr. Booth in isolation to be a concern, after disappointing FQ1 results, increasing industry headwinds and now surprisingly muted expectations for Aurora’s remaining FY20, we have made substantial downward revisions to our model,” Canaccord Genuity analyst Matt Bottomley said.

Bottomley downgraded the stock to “hold”, saying Aurora paints muted growth expectations, while the impairments suggest significant growth headwinds as its CEO steps aside.

Amid industry-wide uncertainty, the companies also face the wrath of investors that have become growingly impatient of high costs and meager sales, with profitability still years away at the largest producers.

Several high-level executives have been shown the door in the past year. Canopy Growth ousted its co-chief Bruce Linton last year and said David Klein, an executive at its major shareholder Constellation Brands Inc, will take the helm. Aurora said in December Cam Battley, its Chief Corporate Officer, would step down.

Despite low costs of production, the challenge for Aurora is worse than its peers due to the lack of a large strategic investor, said Morningstar analyst Kristoffer Inton in a note.

“Aurora is in a tough spot,” said Inton.

$1 = 1.3315 Canadian dollars Reporting by Shanti S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber

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