Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Aphria Shares Plunge 28 per Cent after Short Seller Report

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Aphria Shares Plunge 28 per Cent after Short Seller Report

Article excerpt

Aphria plunges after short seller report

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TORONTO - Shares of cannabis producer Aphria Inc. plummeted nearly 28 per cent after short-sellers called the Canadian company a "black hole" and alleged that its recent international acquisitions totalling roughly $280-million were "largely worthless."

Quintessential Capital Management and Hindenburg research alleged in a report published online Monday that the Leamington, Ont.-based pot grower had acquired foreign companies in countries including Jamaica, Argentina and Colombia at "vastly inflated" prices and in ways that it believes benefit a group of insiders.

"Aphria is part of a scheme orchestrated by a network of insiders to divert funds away from shareholders into their own pockets," the report said.

Aphria shares fell as much as 29 per cent to $7.38 in heavy trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Monday morning. The Leamington, Ont.-based cannabis producer's shares recovered slightly by Monday afternoon but then slipped again to close at $7.60 or roughly 27.7 per cent lower than its closing price of $10.51 on Friday. After Monday's price plunge, Aphria has a market value of $1.9 billion.

On the New York Stock Exchange, where Aphria listed its shares in November, its stock was down as much as 30 per cent to US$5.60. The stock closed at US$6.05 or 23.4 per cent lower than its previous closing price of US$7.90.

Quintessential and Hindenburg called the company a "black hole for shareholders' money" and said they are short on Aphria. By selling shares short, investors makes money when the price of a company's stock falls.

Aphria, one of the largest Canadian cannabis companies by market capitalization, on Monday called the short-sellers' allegations "false and defamatory."

The report is "a malicious and self-serving attempt to profit by manipulating Aphria's stock price at the expense of Aphria's shareholders," the company said in a later statement.

Many Canadian cannabis shares were on a tear in the lead up to Oct. 17, when Canada became the second country in the world to legalize pot for recreational use.

Amid soaring valuations, many sector players also used their shares to finance deals and acquisitions at home and abroad.

Meanwhile, Cannabis pot companies have also increasingly found themselves in the cross-hairs of short sellers. For example, Cannabis company Cronos Group Inc. saw its shares nosedive by nearly 27 per cent in August after U.S. short seller Citron Research raised concerns about its disclosures.

Hindenburg had taken aim at Aphria in a note published on March 21 this year, which raised questions about the pot producer's $425-million purchase of cannabis company Nuuvera Inc. …

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