Aphria confirms CEO, co-founder to exit embattled cannabis producer

Vic Neufeld CEO of Aphria Inc. in Leamington in February 2016.							Dan Janisse  Windsor Star

Vic Neufeld CEO of Aphria Inc. in Leamington in February 2016. Dan Janisse Windsor Star

The company reported mixed quarterly results Friday morning.

Chief executive officer Vic Neufeld and co-founder Cole Cacciavillani, both in their sixties, will step down from their roles and hand over the reins to Aphria's president Jakob Ripshtein and newly appointed chair Irwin Simon, the Leamington, Ont. -based company said in a news release.

"Building and leading a Company like Aphria, which exploded from an idea in late 2013 to our many successes to-date, has been an incredible journey, despite the toll it has taken on health, family and personal priorities".

"We continue to have the greatest pride in what Aphria has achieved, and its future has never looked brighter", Neufeld said in a statement Friday.

Aphria's stock fell 4.6 percent to $6.28 as of 8:22 a.m.in pre-market trading in NY.

One of the largest cannabis companies in Canada, Aphria's stock was hammered a few months ago by allegations from short sellers that the company bought numerous assets in the Caribbean and Latin America at grossly inflated prices, created to enrich insiders.

Their departures were first reported Thursday night by The Globe and Mail and come weeks after Aphria was attacked by two short-sellers for one of its recent transactions. However, QCM didn't respond to BNN Bloomberg's inquiries to verify if the hedge fund had fully withdrawn its short position on the company.

"There is no active offer for the company and the proposal presented was determined to significantly undervalue the company", Neufeld said during the call.

Irwin Simon, the company's newly-appointed chairman, also spoke during the conference call, noting that he sees many similarities between the cannabis industry and the natural organic sector that he first worked in almost three decades ago.

Aphria reported revenue of C$21.7 million ($16.4 million) for the quarter ended November 30, up 63 percent from the prior quarter but below the average analyst estimate of C$28.8 million. Net income was C$54.8 million or C$0.22 per share, compared with C$0.09 a share last quarter, with the increase related to gains on its long-term investment portfolio.

Cannabis sales rose 92 percent to 3,409 kilogram equivalents, with more than 1,900 kilograms of that sold to the Canadian recreational market after pot was legalized on October 17.

Aphria sold about 1,900 kilograms of legal recreational cannabis in the quarter and 1,466 kilograms of medical marijuana, the company said. The average selling price fell to $6.54 per gram, from $7.12 per gram in the prior quarter.

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