Altria's stock fell by almost 25 percent this year and revenue is expected to grow by only 1 percent this year and in 2019, CNN Business reported. The deal also includes a warrant, which if exercised could take Altria's ownership stake in the Toronto-based medical and recreational marijuana provider to 55 percent over the next four years.
"It's really become a place where numerous leading companies that want to compete for leadership throughout the world in the cannabis business have been locating", Willard said of Canada.
"The proceeds from Altria's investment will enable us to more quickly expand our global infrastructure and distribution footprint, while also increasing investments in (research and development) and brands that resonate with our consumers", he continued. The company could also be positioning itself for the possible legalization of marijuana across the U.S., Quartz added.
The biggest companies have avoided investing in US cannabis businesses, which are legal in a handful of states, because of the federal prohibition on the drug. The move will help it tap into a customer base outside cigarette smokers, as cigarette smoking declines in the U.S.
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Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Anheuser-Busch and Guinness brewer Diageo haven't jumped in yet, but have said they're watching closely as the market for cannabis and its extracts evolves.
Canadian marijuana company, Canopy Growth, for example, has received a multibillion dollar investment from Corona owner Constellation Brands, CNN reported.
Altria's huge investment lit up shares of cannabis companies that have begun to set up shop in Canada, where recreational use was legalized nationwide this year. Altria will make Cronos its exclusive partner for all world-wide cannabis-related investments, with some limited exceptions.