Canopy Growth closing Smiths Falls HQ, laying off 800 workers

Canopy Growth Corp. will lay off 800 workers as part of a transformation plan that will see the company close its hallmark 1 Hershey facility and consolidate some of its cultivation operations.

Cannabis company lost $266.7M in most recent quarter

A worker collects cuttings from a marijuana plant at the Canopy Growth Corporation facility in Smiths Falls, Ont., in 2018. The company is closing its headquarters in the town of more than 9,000 people southwest of Ottawa. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

Canopy Growth Corp. will lay off 800 workers as part of a transformation plan that will see the company close its hallmark 1 Hershey facility and consolidate some of its cultivation operations.

The Smiths Falls, Ont. cannabis company said Thursday that 40 per cent of the cuts are happening immediately and the remainder will take place over the next several months.

The move is meant to help the company behind brands like Tweed, Quatreau, Doja and Ace Valley reach profitability and enable sustainable and long-term growth.

Both have become difficult because the illicit market still captures about 40 per cent of all pot sales and the Canadian cannabis sector is valued below the $7 billion that was once projected, said David Klein, Canopy Growth's chief executive.

"We expect the sector challenges to remain for years to come and as a result, the sustainability of this legal sector is in question," he said Thursday on a call with analysts.

Changes in headquarters, Quebec, B.C.

Canopy said it will wind down operations at 1 Hershey Dr., a site in Smiths Falls, just south of Ottawa, where chocolate company Hershey once had a factory.

One Hershey, which has long been Canopy's headquarters, was the company's main site for flower and edibles production, but also housed office space.

The company will now complete post-production flower activity at 99 Lorne St., which is across the street from 1 Hershey and already has a regional distribution centre, bottling facility and beverage capabilities.

The former Hershey Chocolate, new Tweed visitor centre in Smiths Falls.
The former Hershey Chocolate factory in Smiths Falls became Canopy Growth's headquarters, including a visitor centre. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Canopy will also cease to source flower from its Mirabel, Que., facility, which is owned and operated through Les Serres Vert Cannabis Inc., a joint venture partnership between the company and Les Serres Stephane Bertrand Inc., a tomato greenhouse operator.

Canopy previously purchased pot from the joint venture, but will cease that activity and now move to a more flexible sourcing strategy to ensure Quebec-grown products are brought to consumers in the province.

The company is still in discussions about the long-term future of the site, Klein said.

Rounding out the facility changes will be the consolidation of cultivation at Canopy's sites in Kincardine, Ont., and Kelowna, B.C.

As the company transitions its facilities and operations, it will work to balance in-house with third-party manufacturing by focusing internal capabilities on flower, pre-rolls, softgels and oils.

The final part of the changes comes in the form of a partnership with Quebec-based EXKA to manage Canopy's genetics program.

$266.7M loss last quarter

Canopy's share price tumbled 16 per cent to $3.08 in mid-morning trading after the company revealed its net loss amounted to $266.7 million or 54 cents per diluted share for the third quarter, which ended Dec. 31.

The result compared with a net loss of $115.5 million in the same quarter a year earlier.

Net revenue for the quarter totalled $101.2 million, down from $141.0 million a year earlier.

Staffing cuts to cultivation, manufacturing and other areas of operations will deliver $45 to $50 million in annualized cost of goods sold savings alone, said Judy Hong, the company's chief financial officer, on the same call as Klein.

Legalization challenges 

Canopy's transformation plan comes after years of Canadian pot companies slashing workforces and tightening operations in a bid to reach their long-awaited goal of profitability.

Making the goal tough has been the strength of the illicit market, a slow move toward federal legalization in the U.S. and sales that have underwhelmed, when compared with lofty estimates some cannabis company executives first foresaw for the industry.

"Today there are two very different cannabis markets in Canada: one that is legal, highly taxed and regulated and one that is thriving and illicit," Klein said.

"The unregulated, illicit market is generating billions of dollars of dollars of revenue with 40 per cent of market share and faces virtually no risk of enforcement."

The Ontario Cannabis Store said in March that the illicit market share is 43 per cent. As a result, the legal sector is forced to compete on price "out of necessity," Klein said.

The average price for cannabis was $11.78 per gram at the start of 2019, shortly after legalization, but fell to $7.50 per gram in 2021, a November report from Deloitte Canada and cannabis research firms Hifyre and BDSA said.

Staff work in a marijuana grow room that could be seen from the visitors centre at Canopy Growth's headquarters in Smiths Falls in 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Such drops have prodded Canopy into refocusing its product mix on the premium sector, which typically commands higher prices and generates a more loyal consumer basis than value items.

The move toward premium was coupled with an ongoing cost-cutting plan in recent years involving hundreds of job cuts, the retooling of its facilities, reviewing procurement strategies, implementing flexible manufacturing processes and reducing third-party professional and office fees.

Canopy Growth announces major cuts as it struggles to turn a profit -- including the end of operations at the old Hershey’s chocolate factory in Smiths Falls.


Tara Deschamps

Canadian Press

Tara Deschamps is a business reporter with The Canadian Press

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