Rubicon Organics Inc.

Q1 2023 Earnings Conference Call


spk00: Good morning everyone. Welcome to Rubicon Organic's first quarter March 31st, 2023 financial results conference call. As a reminder, this conference is being recorded on May 23rd, 2023. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Following the presentation, we will conduct a question and answer session. Instructions will be provided at that time for research analysts to queue up for questions. Before we begin, I will refer you to slide two of our presentation, which contains Rubicon's caution regarding forward-looking statements and non-GAAP measures. Today's presenter will be Margaret Brody, interim CEO and CFO. I will now turn the call over to Margaret Brody for the presentation.
spk01: Thank you, operator, and good morning, everyone. Today, I'll provide an update on Rubicon Organic's performance in Q1 2023, highlighting our progress as an emerging winner in the Canadian cannabis market. In Q1 2023, we achieved net revenue of $8.8 million for the three months ended Q1 2023, a 71% increase in the same period in the prior year. And we achieved both positive operating cash flow and adjusted EBITDA of $200,000 marking our fourth consecutive quarter of positive adjusted EBITDA and third consecutive quarter of positive operating cash flow. Over the last three months and the past 12 months, our growth rate has consistently exceeded the overall cannabis market's growth rate, resulting in our national market share growing from 1.8% in Q1-22 to 2.1% in the total market of Q1-23 and 5.3% in the premium flower and pre-roll market in the same period. Despite Q1 being the cannabis industry's seasonally sluggish quarter, in Q1 23, we have established a solid foundation for achieving profitability through the remainder of 23 and plan to deliver on that. Let's move on to discussing each of our key priorities for the year and how we are progressing against each one. We have four key priorities for 23, as you can see. Firstly, to optimize yield and cultivation at the Delta facility. Secondly, we seek to maximize the Canadian premium opportunity. Thirdly, we want to drive efficiency in systems and processes. And lastly, we aim to build a proud and engaged team who deliver outstanding results. As you would have seen from me before, our first priority is to optimize yields and cultivation at the Delta facility. Rubicon is dedicated to providing the Canadian market with super premium quality cannabis flower products as our primary focus. As a flower first business, we prioritize excellence in this domain. and constantly strive to enhance our flower quality. We maintain an unwavering and endless commitment to continuous improvement, acknowledging that we can always push quality further. Producing on a large scale in a greenhouse environment is subject to seasonal influence, which can present challenges. We recognize and navigate these factors, ensuring that our operations remain robust and adaptable. Additionally, while commercializing new strains to meet evolving market demands, We also uphold our brand standards, introducing further complexities that we diligently address. By acknowledging the hurdles inherent in our industry and proactively addressing them, we maintain our dedication to delivering exceptional cannabis products while upholding our commitment to quality and customer satisfaction. Rubicon's cultivation and processing teams are constantly evaluating data, looking at improvements and trialing new genetics and methodologies to improve our products, and we believe the steady, incremental improvements in our quality are demonstrated in the markets with recent drops in both Simply Bare Organic and 1964 Supply Co. At the end of April, we made necessary improvements to our second cultivation compartment with respect to its ground cover. Now that this groundwork is completed, the remaining 50% of the facility, which does not have tables, is ready for their installation, planned for August of 23. Tables will firstly improve air circulation, which is a contributor to product quality, and reduces humidity risk, and increases our total yield capacity. by providing more production rows. As we previously mentioned, tables have now been ordered with an installation plan for later this summer, and we expect to see the positive impact of these tables in late 23 and early 24 crops. Secondly, we seek to maximize the Canadian premium opportunity. Our goal is to optimize the gross margin per gram produced by offering customers the right genetics and product formats at the appropriate price to value. We aim to grow the Simply Bare brand and enhance the gross profit of other brands. As we currently face capacity limitations, we are strategically making product decisions to maximize contribution margins while meeting consumer and customer, i.e., the province's demands. In 22, infused pre-rolls gained market share and consumer interest, impacting our pre-roll business. However, our introduction of infused pre-rolls in both Simply Bare and 1964 have revitalized the category for us. Furthermore, We launched Exciting New Genetics in 23, including Cleopatra and White Rainbow in Simply Bare, which we anticipate will drive momentum for the brand. We've taken the first step to achieve incremental gross profit beyond our production capacity at Delta, and in April, launched 1964 single-strain live rosin edibles in two flavors in Ontario and BC, expecting to generate additional sales and gross profit with minimal impact on Delta's capacity. Additionally, we have been establishing contract grow relationships to ensure Rubicon's quality standards, and we anticipate seeing the initial outcomes of this program in late 23. These projects are projected to contribute increased net revenue and gross profit. Thirdly, we want to drive efficiency in processes and systems. To improve efficiency, Rubicon is evaluating new information systems and plan to implement them in the second half of 23, reducing reliance on manual processes and key individuals. Though it will drive short-term, non-recurring cost, new systems will increase Rubicon's resilience and repeatability, readying us for further growth. We have also kicked off a piece of work to increase the knowledge base of the wider business and further embed and institutionalize the Rubicon way of operating to build our business resilience and continuity consistency. Lastly, we aim to build a proud and engaged team who deliver outstanding results. At Rubicon, we place a strong emphasis emphasis on team member engagement and pride to ensure the delivery of a premium product while minimizing costs related to team member turnover. Currently, our 23 engagement surveys in progress, allowing us to gather valuable feedback from our team members. Additionally, we are actively seeking input from across the company to refresh the Rubicon values as we embark on the next stage of our business. In line with our commitment to accountability, we are preparing to release our third environmental, social, and governance report in the upcoming months. The overall cannabis market continues to grow in Canada, and according to Statistics Canada, in 22, we saw sales in the legal market of 4.5 billion. As many of you are aware, it is estimated that there remains 40 to 50% of consumers still purchasing in the black market, and we expect a large share of those customers to shift into the legal market over the coming years, with the total Canadian market continuing to grow. Regarding the premium market, although it is still outpacing the overall market, with a 17% growth rate at the end of Q1, we are observing a convergence beginning between premium growth and overall growth, indicating a deceleration trend. However, it is important to note that the legal cannabis market continues to expand, and there is significant potential for growth. In the last 18 months, there has been a large increase in competition in the premium category, largely driven from the craft movement. But I can report that Rubicon saw growth across all four key provinces in which it operates, British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec in Q1-23 compared to the same period last year. As competition in the premium space intensifies, it becomes crucial for us to adapt and realign our approach to address changing market dynamics. We are particularly encouraged by results in Ontario, the country's largest market, and will continue to focus on expanding our presence and driving growth in that region. As we saw from the market growth, With our five brands and various product sizes and formats, we believe we are well-positioned to respond to any potential changes in market case and appeal across pocketbooks. One of our core strengths lies in the breadth and brand portfolio from the super premium Simply Bear Organic, establishing itself as a leader in super premium, and the organic category, excuse me, to 1964 code targeting legacy consumers and nostalgic strains from pre-legalization days. We have strategically diversified our offerings to cover a wide range of formats, sizes, and product categories, with this approach allowing us to be competitive and agile, regardless of the market's direction. In terms of our results for Q1 23, you can see from the chart that in the first quarter of 23, the company earned $8.8 million in revenue, 71% up versus the same quarter prior year, and well down versus our record performance in Q4 22. We anticipated this seasonal low and remain on track for our plans in 23. The growth in the quarter is broad-based across the portfolio as we have doubled the number of SKUs compared to the same period a year ago and delivered growth from all brands in our portfolio as well as in each of the top four provinces. The growth on Simply Bear was driven by the launch of new strains, larger format, and infused pre-roll offering, being the live-bothering role that was launched in the fourth quarter of 22. 1964 has been the primary driver of the company's growth, with a wide range of products now listed across all key provinces, and our hero strain, Comatose, being complemented by new strain launches, such as Gelato 41 and Super Lemon Hage, which we believe are beginning to resonate with the 1964 consumer. Looking across the profit line, we see continued growth year on year, and the expansion of our margin from 14% in Q122 to 34% in Q123, as we see the results of our operating leverage on higher sales over a fixed cost base. Margins did dip down versus Q4-22 as a result of seasonal sales dip, but we expect that to recover as sales pick back up next quarter. Overall, we are pleased to start our fiscal year with positive adjusted EBITDA, marking the fourth consecutive quarter we achieved this milestone. And looking to cash, we did have a small expected dip in the first quarter, but we expect this to pick back up again as sales increase in the summer months of stronger demand for our product. We continue to invest in this facility this year, notably in tables as previously mentioned, but also other operational improvements. We expect CapEx spend to be less than $4 million total for the year, which should leave us with increasing cash balance and a strong working capital position. For information, currently our cash balance is approximately $8 million. As we look to the rolling 12-month run rate, we again see broad-based growth coming across our entire portfolio of brands and all key regions. Our super premium brand SimplyBear is back to net revenue growth for the rolling 12 months thanks to a stronger Q1 performance on the back of new strain launches and a full quarter of infused pre-rolls being in market. With overall premium growth slowing and increased quality competition, we continue to review SimplyBear portfolio to ensure we have a competitive product offering in market. As for 1964, it continues to be the primary driver of total growth in the company over the rolling 12 months, as 22 SAAS introduced a wider portfolio of products across all major provinces, and we continue to see a strong rate of sale for all of our key product formats. As we move forward and find ourselves with demand outstripping supply, we expect to face tougher comparisons as we begin laughing ourselves, but we anticipate a strong summer overall. Looking at gross profit, we continue to see gross profit expansion over the goal in 12 months as we realize operating leverage from our fixed cost base. Production costs were up in Q1 relative to the prior year despite savings we were experiencing from our BC Hydro project. We continue to refine our growing techniques and invest in increased cultivation labor as we believe this will result in higher quality and yields. As we saw previously, 2022 was a turning point for Rubicon. And although Q1 is seasonally lower in the cannabis industry, we've continued to deliver positive operating cash flow and adjusted EBITDA Q1-23, with all three metrics indicated herein demonstrate significant improvement on Q1-2022. Adjusted EBITDA continues to be an important measure for Rubicon, as it strips out the non-cash items in addition to the EBITDA calculations, such as share-based payments and the gains and losses of biological assets accounting standards. which can have significant swings, as we saw, between Q3 and Q4-22. The year-on-year improvement in profitability was driven by the 71% increase in our revenue, increased throughput at the facility, and continued prudence with our spending and OPEX. Our Q1 results have bolstered our confidence in our business plans for Q23 and set the foundation for another strong year of results for Rubicon. Now to the Canadian cannabis sector and Rubicon Organics within it. 2023 looks to be a challenging year for most of the Canadian cannabis industry. There is currently a financial time bomb in the industry, from the ongoing challenges of competing against the black market to a heavily regulated and tax burden weighing everybody down, from licensed producers to retail stores. Many of our competitors are sitting on multi-million dollar excise bills unpaid to the CRA, and we hear that the tax authority is beginning to come calling. The consensus view from analysts is that in 2023, we will see excess low and mediocre quality supply and inefficient operations leave the legal industry through closures and bankruptcy. While that is not what many of our compatriots in the cannabis industry want to hear, I believe that the government is expecting the industry to move on to a stage of more balanced supply-demand equilibriums, before making any major changes that will impact the economics at the federal and provincial level. So how does that impact Rubicon? As I mentioned before, the legal market is still growing, and the premium category is experiencing double-digit growth. Rubicon is currently capacity-constrained, and we are making choices to maximize contribution margin given our constrained product supply. Having a desirable product that consumers want to buy, together with our positive EBITDA trajectory and solid balance sheets, I expect that we will emerge as a winner and be in position to make compelling growth choices as time goes on. And I should mention that I'm lucky to work with a talented, focused, and committed leadership team and board. In the spring, we have announced our new proposed board members and the onboarding process is underway. We plan to hold our AGM in the summer, whereby we expect our board observers will be successful with their nominations. And our compensation committee is currently seeking third-party input an appropriate compensation for board members in C-suite to stay in line with appropriate comparators. The board has also decided that the CEO role will be determined once the new board is fully onboarded and voted onto the board, and the new group will make the selection of the permanent CEO. For the time being, I will continue as interim CEO and CFO.
spk02: The existing leadership team continues with the strategy and is focused on our next milestones. So wrapping up,
spk01: The overall industry is in a very poor state, which means in order to demonstrate a compelling offer to potential investors, Rubicon needs to remain focused on our strategy and deliver positive results to ultimately drive value for our shareholders. In addition to driving results, I need to start telling our story to all levels of government and interested investors, and you can expect more of that from me in 2023. Few companies in the cannabis sectors are positioned financially, such as Rubicon Organics. With our premium market position, balance sheet, and positive trajectory, we expect to deliver continued growth in net revenue, resulting in an increase in gross profit and adjusted EBITDA for the full year of 2023. And so we would now like to open the line for endless questions. Operator, please open the line.
spk00: Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, we will now begin the question and answer session. Should you have a question, please press star followed by the one on your touchtone phone. You will hear a three-tone prompt acknowledging your request. Should you wish to decline from the polling process, please press star followed by the two. If you are using a speakerphone, please lift the hands up before pressing any keys. One moment, please, for your first question. The first question comes from Neil Gilmore of Haywood Securities. Please go ahead.
spk04: Yeah, thanks very much. Good morning. Margaret, maybe if we could try to expand a little bit on the new tables and area that you talked about in your prepared remarks. Can you sort of characterize sort of how much of the facility, like what sort of percentage that is right now? And am I correct in understanding that there's no growing there in the current time so that you put these tables in? And like you said, you see the benefit later this year. I'm just trying to get a gauge for sort of where you're operating at right now and where you can get to once that project is complete.
spk01: Great question. Thanks, Neal. Good morning. We are growing in the – we have five growing compartments per nursery within the facility at this stage, and we are growing in all of those compartments now. In about 50% of the facility, we do not have plants on table. What that means is they sit right on the gravel floor and the ground cover in the facility. When that goes in, we'll be able to actually install additional plants, yes, So we believe it's only about a 7% increase in overall space, but actually we believe the impact of yield is expected to be better than that, given that it will have a larger impact on quality once things are raised and there's better air circulation through it. So I'll say 7% for now and hold my cards close to my chest, but we think the overall impact on quality will be more significant than that. Okay, thanks for that.
spk04: And then just talking to the gross margins, I understand the dip in Q1 with the lower revenue, your production costs were basically unchanged from Q4. Yep. the Q4 level was about 41%, you know, adjusted. Is there room for improvement on top of that? I think we talked a little bit on the last call about this, where you say you're always looking at opportunities, but just trying to say, I think you touched on your prepared remarks saying, you know, you expect improvement, but just didn't know, you know, is 41% sort of the run rate going forward aside from the seasonality in Q1?
spk01: I think that's probably a, a fair place to put us at the 41%. I think that would, the management team won't kick me for saying that. Look, it's all about the revenue line, which drives everything to the bottom line, given the production cost. Products that are going, that are not being produced in our facility are mixed. Some are higher growth profit and some are lower. So depending on how large that gets, it will impact that ratio. But I think that's probably a good place to start. Okay, great.
spk04: Thanks for taking my questions. I'll pass the line.
spk02: Thank you.
spk00: Thank you. Once again, ladies and gentlemen, if you do have a question, please press star one at this time. The next question comes from Michael Freeman of Raymond James. Please go ahead.
spk03: Hi, good morning, Margaret. Thanks for taking our questions. I wonder if we could talk about Simply Bear and the We think about this as the most important opportunity for margin growth and the best use of Rubicon's Delta facility. I'm wondering how you're approaching growing the proportion of sales that are through the Simply Bare brand. And then just as a separate question, I wonder how you're thinking about price and if you've had to give back price at all on the Simply Bare brand in the recent quarters.
spk01: Good question on Simply Bear. Look, we've seen a large increase, and you could have seen that in the market to anybody speaking about it in the last number of years has been, we're going to go after premium, we're going to go after premium. You can't just go after premium, you actually have to have the quality. Remembering that consumers are buying an item where they can't see the contents until they open it up. So the brand promise is very important. And we believe that we are starting to establish that with Simply Bear. both if there was a recent study done by brightfield which showed that the top three brands with brand recognition by bud tenders across the country one was general admission the other two were 1964 and simply there because of that brand promise that is starting to get to be delivered in terms of growth i'm not going to i'm going to dodge the question a little bit because my marketing team would kill me on all of their tactics what i can say is New news and genetics is a really important part of that, and finding compelling and interesting flavors and commercializing them is one of the important steps, but also looking at product formats that are the latest trends and where is that going. In terms of price, price compression has been, I would say, inconsistent across the country. It's depended on where some of our competitors have moved, but we've largely held price. The OCS has announced standard markups across the retail platforms, so from the OCS to retailers. That'll be input in the fall, in September it's going into place. There's a bit of game theory happening in the market right now in terms of will people hold price or not. Obviously won't say what Rubicon's choices will be. But I think we are currently in a fairly irrational market where a number of companies are in very dire financial straits and will do anything to turn their inventory into product sales. We believe that our product quality stands for itself. Simply there is an excellent product on the market, as you can see. So I don't think that we are anticipating price decreases. And sort of following along from that, I would say that, you know, In terms of my remarks, look, we're seeing the CRA come in and starting to knock on the doors asking for excise payment. They'll probably start garnishing payments from the provinces soon. When that starts to happen, we are going to see excess product come out of the market because those LPs just won't be able to continue. They won't be able to fund themselves anymore. And I think from there, I think in the short term, we'll probably have a a lot of pressure this summer in probably the low end of the categories. And I think then there'll be more opportunity for Rubicon on the other side on everything from price to volume to getting on shelf.
spk03: All right. Thanks, Margaret. And I think following right to the end of your answer there, I wonder if you could provide us a bit of commentary on how you think you know, federal and provincial governments might act to reform on aspects like excise taxes and regulatory fees that are, you know, being oppressive to the industry today, timelines we might be thinking about for these things and how Rubicon might act in the midst of all these potential events.
spk01: Great question. You know, as we get through the next 12 months, I believe that this summer is unfortunately going to be very difficult for a number of companies if the CRA does start garnishing the payments from the provinces, which means they just won't be able to continue to operate. I do expect that the federal government is listening. I think we're hearing that now. And I know provincially in British Columbia, Minister Farnsworth is taking up the mantle of the cannabis industry. Recently, he wrote a letter to Ottawa. He's made some public statements and some changes. You'll also see last week he revealed that window coverings were not necessary and some amendments to rules making it safer for bud tenders in store and reducing stigma of people coming into cannabis stores, which is what we'd like to see. I believe that there unfortunately will be more blood in the streets before the federal government makes change. And I believe they're waiting for, as I said, that supply demand equation to balance a bit more. So my expectation would be next spring, we may see some movement, or we may get an announcement on a review of the excise regime. But I don't think the change will be quick. Coming out of that for us, we'll survive through that. In fact, we'll, I believe, emerge from that in a good, solid position. And that will allow us to take advantage of the moment in terms of distressed facilities, in terms of opportunity on shelf and brand awareness.
spk03: All right, that's really helpful. And last question for me is, you've mentioned seeking out contract grow in previous quarters and in your commentary today. I wonder if you could describe to us the qualities of a good partner in contract growing and I guess the importance and the overall strategy given the capacity constraints you've described at the Delta facility? Yeah, and how does this – just describe overall how you seek to grow.
spk01: How that works? Sure.
spk03: Output from the contract growth and the core facility.
spk01: Sure. From the core facility, the biggest impact that we can have on our results is actually non-additional biomass, it's actually increasing the share of Simply Bare, remembering that it's about a third of our sales. That will be the largest way we can improve our results by increasing that percentage. But there are excellent growers out in Canada. We are limited in terms of how we could sell various products, given that we're an organic company. So we are not looking at doing any contract growth for our Simply Bare brand, to be clear. That will all be from our Delta facility. And as we look forward, it will be for 1964 specifically. And the qualities, I don't want to go into all the qualities of what someone makes somebody a great grower, because there's a lot of people out there that believe that they are. And if you've been in the cannabis industry for a while, you know that everybody is the best grower in the world. But we think we've got them, so we can laugh slightly about that. You know, finding solid partners in the cannabis industry is tough. So we actually do a lot of due diligence. And what's important is do what you say you can do, have that premium quality standard, and we won't put anything substandard in our brands. And so we're largely looking in British Columbia and Quebec. And if it's Quebec, it's really top tier growers that they've got out there as well. And in British Columbia, it would be organic.
spk02: Okay. Excellent. Thank you very much. I'll jump back in the queue. Thank you.
spk00: Thank you. There are no further questions at this time. Ladies and gentlemen, this does conclude the conference call for today. We thank you for your participation and ask that you please disconnect your lines.

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