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Aurora Cannabis sales fall 26% in Q2, predicts ‘modest to no growth’ ahead

An interior shot of Aurora Cannabis near the Edmonton International Airport. (Provided)

Aurora Cannabis (ACB.TO)(ACB) reported $56 million in net revenue in its fiscal second quarter of 2020, a 26 per cent decline versus the previous quarter. 

The Edmonton-based licenced producer reported an adjusted EBITDA loss of $80.2 million, up from $39.7 million in the prior quarter. The company said net cannabis revenue was $52.7 million for the three months ending Dec. 31, 2019, while noting that figure would have totalled $63.2 million without provisions for returns and price adjustments. 

Toronto-listed shares climbed 4.69 per cent to $2.02 at 9:59 a.m. ET on Thursday. Aurora’s Toronto-listed stock hit a fresh 52-week low on Wednesday, adding to a nearly 80 per cent decline over the past year.  

The company said in a Feb. 6 update that it expected to report between $50 million to $54 million in net revenue in the quarter, following a $12-million provision charge. Analysts polled by Bloomberg predicted $61.7 million in sales. The company was also expected to report an EBITDA loss of $62.5 million. 

"Despite delivering modest growth in our core medical and consumer business in Q2, we took immediate and deliberate actions to align our Company to current market conditions," Aurora’s executive chairman and interim CEO stated in a news release on Thursday.

"As announced last week, being a profitable cannabis company for our investors is the singular near-term focus for Aurora and we have begun to implement a business transformation plan where we intend to manage the business with a high degree of fiscal discipline."

Aurora produced 30,691 kilograms of cannabis in its latest quarter, compared to 41,436 kilograms in the prior quarter. The decrease was attributed to changes to cultivation practices, including a "pivot to high-value, high-potency strains which are lower yielding." 

“We would suggest a positive in terms of regaining investor trust and credibility was better financials than guided (revenue, SG&A), though it will take more than this for any significant re-rating,” Jefferies analyst Owen Bennett wrote in a research note.

“This was obviously a function of the company beginning in their quest to underpromise and overdeliver.”

Bennett maintains a “hold” rating on Aurora shares and a $1.90 price target.

Looking ahead to the third quarter, the company warned of “modest to no growth” relative to fiscal Q2's cannabis revenue. 

Aurora’s latest financial results come on the heels of an especially turbulent period for the cannabis producer. 

Earlier this month, Terry Booth stepped down as chief executive officer after seven years in the top job. Executive chairman Michael Singer is filling the role on an interim basis. 

The boardroom shuffle was coupled with the elimination of nearly 500 staff, including 25 per cent of all corporate positions. Aurora had about 3,400 staff in Canada and overseas prior to the cuts. The move is expected to reduce quarterly “selling, general and administrative” to between $40 and $45 million. 

Aurora also said it will cut its capital spending to $100 million for the second half of fiscal 2020, and reducing plans to spend on information technology projects, sales and marketing initiatives, travel and entertainment and professional services which do not provide an immediate impact on its revenue.

The Feb. 6 announcement also revealed plans to take a writedown of between $190 million and $225 million on certain intangibles and property, plant and equipment, and plans to writedown $740 million to $775 million in goodwill. Aurora had about $156 million left in cash, excluding $45 million of restricted cash as of Dec. 31.

Those changes followed the abrupt exit of chief corporate officer Cam Battley, announced by the company on the Saturday before Christmas. Battley had been the most visible member of Aurora’s executive team, serving as the de facto face of the company. 

Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Pablo Zuanic said at the time that Battley’s departure was “forced,” and rightly predicted further shakeups to what he characterized as the company’s “bloated senior management structure.”