One of the largest tobacco companies in North America, Altria Group – which owns Philip Morris USA, best known for their manufacture of Marlboro cigarettes – has agreed to invest $1.8 billion USD ($2.4 billion Canadian dollars) into Cronos Group, based in Ontario. The investment marks the largest move made by Big Tobacco into the cannabis industry thus far.
As a part of the subscription agreement, Altria agreed to exclusively partner with Cronos for coming international cannabis opportunities. With the $1.8 billion USD equity investment, Altria will acquire 146.2 million shares of Cronos (paying a 41.5% premium over the 10 day average price ending November 30, or $16.25 CAD per share) in exchange for a 45% ownership interest in Cronos. In additiona, Altria will obtain warrants which would allow for an additional $1.5 billion CAD in proceeds for the integrated cannabis company and increase Altria’s ownership stake to 55%.
This partnership between Cronos and Altria will provide Cronos with “additional financial resources, regulatory expertise and product development and commercialization capabilities to tap international cannabis opportunities, the company said in a statement.” Cronos will use the additional funds to prioritize developing brands, research and development, and innovation.
The Chairman, President, and CEO of Cronos Group, Mike Gorenstein, said in a joint statement: “Altria is the ideal partner for Cronos Group, providing the resources and expertise we need to meaningfully accelerate our strategic growth. The proceeds from Altria’s investment will enable us to more quickly expand our global infrastructure and distribution footprint, while also increasing investments in R&D and brands that resonate with our consumers. Importantly, Altria shares our vision of driving long-term value through innovation, and we look forward to continuing to differentiate in this area. As one of the largest holding companies in the adult consumer products sector, Altria has decades of experience in regulatory, government affairs, compliance, product development and brand management that we expect to leverage, particularly as new markets for cannabis open around the world.”
Altria’s Chariman and CEO, Howard Willard, added: ““Investing in Cronos Group as our exclusive partner in the emerging global cannabis category represents an exciting new growth opportunity for Altria. We believe that Cronos Group’s excellent management team has built capabilities necessary to compete globally, and we look forward to helping Cronos Group realize its significant growth potential.”