2019 was the best year so far for cannabis investors in Europe. In early 2019, experts said that the European cannabis market could be worth €123 billion by 2028, and the investments made in this sector indicate that those predictions might turn out to be true. In 2019, there were definitely many big investments in the cannabis market in Europe.
So, as the year draws to a close, you might be wondering who the largest players operating in the European cannabis market this year were. Let’s get started and shine a light on the companies that invested the most into the cannabis sector in Europe in 2019.
The four biggest investors in the European cannabis space
In 2018, the Canadian giant Aurora Cannabis partnered with a Danish company and received a licence from the Danish government to build a cannabis growing facility. In 2019, the company expanded its production space in Denmark from 4,500 to 9,200 square metres.
Aurora Nordic — Aurora’s Danish subsidiary — already boasts 40 employees and is capable of producing up to 20,000 kg of dried cannabis per year. The company is also constructing a second production facility in Denmark, one that will spread over 50,000 square metres and produce up to 100,000 kg of cannabis per year.
That being said, Aurora’s European investments did not stop in Denmark.
The cannabis corporation also bought the Portuguese cannabis producer Gaia Pharm and started building a cannabis-growing facility that should be completed next year.
In addition, Aurora won a licence to construct a state of the art cannabis production facility in Leuna, Germany, and it expects to sell locally grown cannabis to German patients by October 2020. The company’s German facility should produce a minimum of 4,000 kg of cannabis over a four year period.
And that’s not all. Aurora also secured licences to sell cannabis oils in the UK and Germany, and it was selected as the sole winner for the Italian public tender contract. However, things didn’t go as planned with Aurora’s Italian investment because the Italian officials declared that one of the three cannabis supply lots that Aurora won is unnecessary because the government will source the cannabis from local growers.
Canopy Growth, another Canadian cannabis corporation, was also a major player in the European cannabis market.
2019 started strong for Canopy as its subsidiary, Spectrum Cannabis, won licences to sell cannabis-based medicinal products to patients in the UK and Poland. Then, the company expanded its European footprint in April by acquiring the Spanish cannabis producer Cafina.
Cafina is one of the three companies that are authorised to cultivate, distribute and export cannabis in Spain. When Canopy Growth took over, Cafina was not only licensed to operate a 150 square metres greenhouse for medicinal cannabis production but also to grow hemp.
However, Canopy’s European investments were just getting started. In May, the Canadian corporation acquired C3, a German cannabinoid-based pharmaceutical company. When Canopy bought it, C3 was Europe’s leading manufacturer and distributor of dronabinol and served more than 20,000 patients in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Denmark.
Then, Canopy acquired the British beauty and skincare brand This Works. This Works uses hemp and CBD to develop natural skincare and sleep solution products. This acquisition ensures that Canopy Growth will become a player in the quickly expanding CBD wellness market niche.
Recently, Canopy Growth secured some exclusive opportunities. In the UK, one of the company’s subsidiaries secured a licence to import and distribute cannabis-based medicinal products, thus, optimising its supply chain and eliminating third-party suppliers from its distribution process.
In Luxembourg, one of Canopy’s subsidiaries became the country’s exclusive supplier of medical cannabis. According to this licence, Canopy Growth can sell the medical cannabis that it produces around the world in Luxembourg until December 2021.
In 2019, Tilray, yet another Canadian corporation, ramped up its European production. Tilray’s EU Campus in Cantanhede, Portugal, produced its first harvests of medical cannabis in 2019. The company was satisfied with the harvest and decided to increase its production and to employ up to 200 people by the end of the year.
In August, Tilray increased its outdoor cannabis production capacity by signing an agreement with the Portuguese company Esporão. The agreement added 20 hectares of outdoor growing space to Tilray’s existing 5 hectares.
Tilray’s EU Campus also received a standard manufacturing licence and a certification for Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), allowing the company to export dried cannabis from Portugal to Germany and other EU member states.
Then, the Canadian corporation got a licence to sell medical cannabis products in the UK and Ireland. This licence gives Tilray the opportunity to position itself as a leading supplier of medical cannabis products as demand increases in the UK.
Tilray also signed an agreement with Cannamedical Pharma GmbH to distribute the cannabis produced in its Portuguese facility to German patients. As of now, Tilray exported a wholesale shipment of €3 million worth of cannabis to Germany.
Aphria — a Canadian corporation, as you would have probably expected by now — started its 2019 investments by acquiring CC Pharma GmbH, a pharmaceutical distributor that served more than 13,000 pharmacies in Germany and other EU states. Then, the company introduced CannRelief, the first of its CBD-infused cosmetic products, in Germany through CC Pharma.
Aphria’s German subsidiary received a much sought-after licence to cultivate cannabis in Germany. Aphria won five of the 13 available lots, each with a production capacity of at least 200 kg. The company started to build an indoor cultivation facility with a surface of 8,000 square metres, which should be operational by summer 2020.
Other notable big investments in the cannabis market in Europe
Flowr Corp — yet another Canadian company — acquired the Portugal-based cannabis grower Holigen. This acquisition makes Flowr one of the top cannabis growers in Europe, as Holigen’s farms cover a surface of over 650,000 square metres in Portugal and have a production capacity of 500,000 kg of cannabis per year.
Atlas Growers — yes, it is indeed also a Canadian company — leased the assets of a Danish company and received a cultivation licence from the Danish government. The company built a 15,000 square metres cannabis growing facility and expects the first harvest in the first trimester of 2020. Atlas will also build an 1,800 square metres cannabis processing facility.
Conclusions and predictions regarding cannabis investments in Europe
The investments that were made in Europe in 2019 show that Canadian corporations are by far the largest players in the European cannabis market. That’s to be expected, as these companies have the resources to buy out their European competitors. The Canadians are simply capitalising on this advantage.
But the thing is, Canadian corporations need European markets to stay afloat. The Canadian cannabis market is already oversaturated, so corporations need to make large investments in Europe if they want to keep their share prices high.
As a result, next year’s investments will most likely follow a similar pattern. Canadian companies will buy plots of land or distribution firms all over the EU, securing their places in the region until the local lawmakers will legalise cannabis.
However, the fact that local authorities, such as the Italian government, are already looking to stimulate local cannabis production is encouraging. These actions might allow European cannabis startups to prosper in the following years.