Cantor Upgrades Clever Leaves Amid International Expansion

Clever Leaves (NASDAQ: CLVR) could become one of the world’s top five cannabinoid exporters by the end of this year, according to a new report by Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Pablo Zuanic. The findings come a week ahead of the company’s second-quarter earnings release and half a year since CEO Andres Fajardo was tapped to lead the company out of a desperate cash burn and into new, more profitable markets overseas.

Clever Leaves’ plan so far seems to be good on schedule. It has inked lucrative deals with players in overseas markets such as Portugal, Germany, Australia, Brazil, Colombia and Israel.

While the outlook is still a “show me” story, it said, the new distribution partnerships add value with the assumption that continued medical market growth in those overseas markets will work to Clever Leaves’ advantage long-term. The estimates do not account for recreational cannabis legalization in Germany or elsewhere.

“Still, while we are positive on the company’s top-line growth outlook, profitability and cash burn are key investment risks,” the report said. “In fact, although the cost base has been rationalized, capex lowered, and debt mostly paid down, cash burn remains an issue.”

Cantor Fitzgerald assigned Clever Leaves an “Overweight” rating and a 12-month price target of $4.50. The stock was lately selling at 94 cents, but its 52-week high was $12.40. Zuanic wrote, “From a purely trading perspective, positive news flow about regulatory changes, especially in Colombia and Germany, could favorably impact sentiment,” as a reason the price could jump.

“In relative terms, the stock offers better “pure-play” exposure to growth in overseas medical cannabis markets,” the report said, “and eventually to (recreational) legalization in those markets.”

Global Business

With Clever Leaves focused on markets outside North America, the key for the company is to capture downstream margins. In general, these markets enjoy better economics due to higher barriers to entry such as EU certification and high start-up costs, as well as fewer licensed growers. Cantor estimates that retail prices in Europe’s medical markets, especially Germany, are three times those seen in Canada. U.S. prices in Israel and Australia are also well above the North American average. As part of its rescoped strategy, the company is now focused on exports to Australia, Germany, Brazil, and Israel.

“Yes, the company is also targeting the U.S., but we see that as more long-term optionality for CLVR’s cannabinoids exports,” the report said.

This year, the company used the bulk of the $23 million raise executed in the first quarter — in which the share count increased 45% — to pay down all the convertible debt, as well as borrowings related to the Herbal Brands deal. Additional shareholder dilution remains a risk, “in our view, given ongoing cash burn,” it said, though capex needs are now much lower and inventory levels are expected to come down.

“The main issue is for the company to scale up the top-line (profitably) and minimize cash burn,” the report said. “The company has less than $27 million left in an facility, and this could be tapped depending on the timing of overseas market growth.”

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