Medical marijuana's first IPO?
A California company that makes pot-growing equipment hopes to go public this year.
A California outfit called GrowOp Technology plans an initial public offering later this year, according to its website. The company is not a marijuana grower. Instead, it makes growing equipment that includes a 53-foot high-tech tractor trailer designed for growing pot. The trailers are outfitted with a hydroponic growing system and can be monitored remotely with a computer or iPhone.
Trailers come in three sizes and cost between $10,000 and $70,000, the company said.
GrowOp appears to be taking its IPO very seriously. Its founder, Derek Peterson, was an investment banker at Wachovia and Morgan Stanley (MS), reports 24/7 Wall St. The company's advisory committee includes a fund manager, an investment banker and the head of a corporate advisory firm.
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Here's the company's case for an IPO, according to 24/7 Wall St.: Nationwide marijuana sales have grown about 40% in the past several years. Dispensaries rack up annual sales of $4 million to $10 million. And California has more than 500 hydroponic retailers.
"Our goal is to become the Apple (AAPL) of hydroponic technology," Peterson said. "And we feel by developing and offering innovative designs, clean packaging and competitive prices, the market share is there for our taking."
The company wants to get $4 million to $5 million in equipment sales this year and as much as $15 million next year. GrowOp is aiming for a franchise model, whereby it charges franchisees an initial fee and takes a cut of annual sales.
Any IPO is fraught with risks, but GrowOp might see more than most. Look at Oakland. Peterson was planning to apply to build an industrial-scale growing operation in the city, according to The Wall Street Journal. He envisioned a 50,000-square-foot facility that could hold 40,000 plants.
But in December, the Oakland City Council voted to suspend a plan to allow four large-scale growing facilities. The President Barack Obama's administration had warned the city that the facilities might violate federal laws.
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The stock is expensive and the guidance is weak -- not an appetizing combination.
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