Canadian marijuana producer Aphria Inc. (APHA) has urged its shareholders to “take no action” after cannabis retailer Green Growth Brands Inc. (GGB) tabled another hostile bid for the company.
In a press release, Aphria complained that the terms of Green Growth’s latest all-stock takeover offer were “identical” to the unsolicited proposal it made on Dec. 27. That bid was rejected because it “significantly” undervalued the company based on management’s estimates of its current and future value.
Aphria said an independent committee of its board will now evaluate Green Growth’s latest offer before making any formal recommendation and asked shareholders to sit tight while it makes its decision.
“Any offer would necessarily need to be evaluated against the current and future value of our current strategic plan,” said Irwin Simon, Aphria's independent board chair. “We are also determined to protect Aphria shareholders from opportunistic offers that fail to reflect the substantial value and growth prospects we have built at Aphria. We will evaluate GGB's offer in this spirit."
On Tuesday, Green Growth said it would offer 1.5714 shares for each Aphria share in a deal that values the marijuana producer at about 2.35 billion Canadian dollars ($1.76 billion). The bid represents a premium of about 25 percent on where Aphria’s shares were trading before Green Growth launched its first hostile bid.
Green Growth, which claims to already own 3 million Aphria shares, has set about convincing shareholders to accept the deal by telling them that a potential merger would create the only large-scale cannabis company “to bridge” U.S. and Canadian markets. Green Growth has given Aphria’s shareholders until 5 p.m. (Toronto time), May 9 to accept its latest offer.
News of the hostile bid led regulators in Canada to suspend trading in both stocks at roughly 4 p.m. Eastern time. Aphria’s U.S.-listed shares were trading almost 5% lower on Wednesday morning.
Aphria’s stock got hammered at the end of last year after short sellers Quintessential Capital Management and Hindenburg Research labeled the firm, one of Canada’s largest pot producers, a “shell game” and accused top executives of enriching themselves at the expense of shareholders. The company continues to deny the accusations.