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Q&A with John Mazarakis: co-founder of a $1B cannabis lender 

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chicacgo atlantic

Cannabis lender Chicago Atlantic had its IPO in December 2021 after four years as a private company. Since then, the company has funded more than $140M in midsize cannabis companies across the US.

Cannabis Wealth hears from co-founder and Chair of Chicago Atlantic, a leading US cannabis business lender about what he looks for in new opportunities, the impact of inflation and interest rates and how federal legalisation might affect lenders.

What does Chicago Atlantic look for in potential new opportunities?

The firm focuses on middle-market state-licensed US cannabis operators with an institutionalized approach to origination and stringent underwriting criteria.

We weigh out a few factors. Our firm will take into consideration the company’s state. Chicago Atlantic typically focuses on limited license states, largely east of the Mississippi River. The team also looks at collateral and cash flow when considering opportunities.

We focus on borrowers’ ability to service our loan. From that perspective, we are open to investing in any company that has cash flow or meaningful assets.

What impact are the interest rate hike and inflation having on cannabis lenders and borrowers?

john mazarakis chicago atlanticIn general, interest rate hikes are known to affect all industries negatively since the cost of capital increases for both lenders and borrowers possibly even leading to higher rates of default.

Cannabis is unique, however, because it is an industry that is growing at 20 per cent year over year, and demand for capital will remain strong due to lack of competition and borrowers’ appetite for growth. In addition, the lenders that have provided loans based on floating rates will be unaffected vs those who have fixed that are effectively absorbing the cost of higher rates.

Inflation is impacting both lenders and borrowers as costs are rising across the supply chain and the cost of capital is continually increasing.

How can lenders de-risk lending to the cannabis industry?

Lenders can de-risk by focusing on cash flow, proper debt to EBITDA ratios, fix charge coverage ratios and minimum cash requirements. In addition, collateral/asset coverage ratios should remain robust and typically north of 1:2.

Which US states matter most to you right now?

We tend to focus on states with limited license markets that have the opportunity to transition from medical to adult-use markets such as Pennsylvania, Florida, New Jersey and New York. We have not done any deals in California yet, but we would be willing to if it’s with the right operator.

What are some of the biggest opportunities in the cannabis space right now?

In terms of lending, there is a lack of competition and since cannabis is illegal at the federal level, it presents an opportunity for cannabis lenders because banks won’t lend to that space.

How would federal legalisation impact you as a lender?

I don’t consider the prospect of federal legalisation to be a risk for Chicago Atlantic, it would be a positive regulatory shift that would improve the creditworthiness of borrowers. Additionally, the firm would be able to take advantage of a cheaper cost of capital.

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Markets and industry

Curaleaf partnership to build platform for German recreational market

The company has entered into a strategic partnership with Germany’s Four 20 Pharma.

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Curaleaf partnership to build platform for Germany's recreational market
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Home » News » Markets and industry » Q&A with John Mazarakis: co-founder of a $1B cannabis lender 

Curaleaf has acquired a 55 per cent stake in Four 20 Pharma – a fully EU-GMP and GDP licensed German producer and distributor of medical cannabis with its own product line.

Germany currently represents the largest medical cannabis market in Europe, with a total addressable market of over €200m (~£m) in 2022. This is expected to grow to nearly €1bn by the end of 2024 with the expected legalisation of recreational cannabis, expected to begin in late 2023 or early 2024.

Four 20 Pharma is one of the largest cannabis operators in Germany, with a greater than 10 per cent market share.

Read more: Curaleaf is championing social impact in the cannabis industry

The partnership creates a strategic pathway for Curaleaf to acquire complete control of Four 20 Pharma within two years of the commencement of adult use in Germany. Curleaf has stated that the partnership also ensures alignment between Curaleaf and Four 20 Pharma’s current management team to rapidly build a best-in-class German business and a strong platform for Germany’s eventual adult use market. 

Curaleaf executive chairman, Boris Jordan, commented: “By partnering with Four20 Pharma, Curaleaf’s European business will immediately gain additional critical mass and be in a superior position to capitalise on the accelerating trends in the European cannabis market.

Read more: Curaleaf completes landmark registration of cannabis products in Malta

“The opportunity in Europe cannot be understated, and Curaleaf is uniquely differentiated from other US MSOs via our already significant presence as the largest and most licensed cannabis company in Europe. 

“With cultivation facilities in Portugal, manufacturing facilities in Spain and UK, rapidly growing patient numbers across Europe, particularly in the UK, Curaleaf serves the entire legal cannabis ecosystem and is also poised to capitalise on the adult use opportunity as regulation starts to unlock.

“This strategic transaction further underscores our aspiration to be the major player in the European market and the leading global cannabis company.”

President of Curaleaf International, Miles Worne, said: “Four 20 Pharma is a leading German distributor with a branded product that consumers love. They’ve captured significant market share in Germany by sourcing product from top EU-GMP certified suppliers around the world and building strong connections with German medical consumers by providing the highest quality flower in a namesake branded offering. 

“As such, Four 20 Pharma is uniquely positioned to capitalise on Germany’s conversion from a medical to an adult use market and we’re thrilled to be partnering with their talented management team.”

Managing Partner of Four 20 Pharma, Torsten Greif, commented: “We have been exploring possible partners to stake our claim in the future German and European cannabis markets, and in Curaleaf we know we’ve found the undisputed leader and the best partner. 

“From the beginning of our conversations, it was clear that they supported our strategic vision and respected our autonomy and entrepreneurial approach. Having full access to the tremendous knowledge and assets of the Curaleaf team will accelerate our future growth projects and help drive our company to the next level.”

Managing partner of Four 20 Pharma, Thomas Schatton, added: “Curaleaf shares our values of customer dedication and commitment to product quality, and we are incredibly excited about our future together. 

“The team at Four 20 are thrilled to be able to leverage Curaleaf’s proven R&D expertise to help us continue delivering the best quality products to our medical patients and the promising future  market.”

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MGC Pharma receives first tranche of funding under new $10m financing facility

The financing facility will fund the execution of MGC Pharma’s business commercialisation strategy in the UK and US.

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MGC Pharma receives forst trache of funding from Mercer Street

MGC Pharmaceuticals has confirmed it has received the first funding tranche of US$1.2m under a new US$10 million financing facility with Mercer Street Global Opportunity Fund.

The injection of funding will be used to further MGC Pharma’s business strategy, focused primarily on developing revenue growth through its partnerships with Sciensus Rare in the UK and Europe and AMC in the US.

The Mercer Street Global Opportunity Fund is managed by Mercer Street Capital Partners, a United States-based institutional fund manager and MGC Pharma’s largest shareholder.

The first portion of funding has been received in full and MGC Pharma will now issue 1.32m of convertible notes with a face value of US$1.00 each to Mercer Street. The company will also issue 21,511,545 fully paid ordinary shares to Mercer as part of the agreement.

The US$10m financing facility provides MGC Pharma with access to significant capital to fund the execution of its business commercialisation strategy in the UK and US as well as advance regulatory approvals for the company’s proprietary products in an effort to drive revenue growth, assist in the rollout of the ZAM App and provide funding for the group’s general corporate expenses.

The company will continue to implement “significant” non-revenue driving cost reductions within its operations, including the delay of non-core clinical trials.

Roby Zomer, co-founder and managing director of MGC Pharma, commented: “Mercer’s new US$10m finance facility provides the company with access to funding for MGC Pharma to continue to execute its business strategy of opening up key strategic markets over the next six months. During this period the business strategy will focus primarily on generating revenue growth through our existing relationships with Sciensus Rare in the UK and Europe, and AMC in the USA.

“In addition to its sales growth strategy, MGC is very excited about the potential value that the recent 40 per cent acquisition of the ZAM medical data collection App and its associated machine learning algorithm bring to the company.

“This investment is not only aimed at reducing R&D costs and providing the company with critical proprietary clinical data in the future but also provides the MGC with the potential for a future additional revenue stream and a value-creating asset on the back of the software’s successful implementation and rollout.”

The new US$10m financing facility fully funds MGC Pharma’s current business plan, the company said, and replaces the unused A$9.25 million of the previous funding facility established in September 2021.

Home » News » Markets and industry » Q&A with John Mazarakis: co-founder of a $1B cannabis lender 

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Love Hemp sees sales drop by 16%, expects revenues of £3.6m

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Love Hemp sees sales drop by 16%, expects revenues of £3.6m
Home » News » Markets and industry » Q&A with John Mazarakis: co-founder of a $1B cannabis lender 

Love Hemp Group has stated it is expecting to report total revenues of £3.6m for the financial year ending 30 June 2022, which it says represents revenues slightly ahead of management expectations.

The lower than expected financing earlier this year has resulted in significant reductions in marketing programmes, says Love Hemp. However, the company still experienced sales growth during the second half of the year.

The company’s revenue continues to be UK-centric with year-on-year growth delivered in major retail stores, showing revenue of £2.15m in FY22 up 19 per cent, compared to £1.78m in FY21.

Read more: Love Hemp CBD brand to launch on eBay

Direct to Consumer (DTC) sales continue to be slow via the company’s own online channels, lovehemp.com and cbdoilsuk.com but have generated 7437 new customers. The company has stated that these sales represent 26 per cent of total revenue, down from a 59 per cent share of total revenue compared in FY21, with a new head of digital commerce having been appointed to help grow DTC sales.

However, it has also highlighted that it has sold 233,987 units, up 19 per cent from last year. 

Read more: Love Hemp to appoint new AQSE corporate advisor

This year, Love Hemp had all 34 products added to the Novel Foods Register. As a result, it has agreed new major retail listings and anticipates launching a range of its products in these new stores and respective online platforms in Q4 of 2022. 

Additionally, the company has advanced discussions with a number of other major retailers interested in stocking Love Hemp products.

Tony Calamita, CEO commented; “I am delighted that we have continued to expand our footprint with greater distribution into major retail stores and delivered record sales of product units so more consumers than ever are benefiting from our products. 

“This has been achieved whilst undertaking a significant operational review and I am confident this growth will continue.

“The company plans to make Love Hemp more visible internationally and sales overseas provides a significant opportunity in the future. We are a dynamic and passionate brand that after some challenges is once again on a growth curve with the most powerful and influential brand partnerships in the sector. Now it is our time to really capitalise on the opportunity.”

In December 2021 Love Hemp was also awarded ‘Leading CBD brand 2021’ in the Commercial Cannabis awards organised by Global Health and Pharma. Love Hemp is also a nominated finalist for ‘Most Loved CBD brand’ in the World CBD awards due to take place in October 2022.

Over the next year, Love Hemp plans to invest further in product development and release numerous new products in both ingestible and topical formats.

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