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Nov 24, 2017

Aurora warns it will walk away if CanniMed buys Newstrike

Aurora says CanniMed takeover terms include killing Newstrike deal

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TORONTO -- Aurora Cannabis Inc. formally launched its all-stock takeover bid for CanniMed Therapeutics Friday, on the condition that the medical marijuana producer cancel its own planned acquisition of Newstrike Resources Ltd.

The Vancouver-headquartered licensed marijuana company says in a statement it placed a newspaper ad for its offer to acquire all issued and outstanding shares for up to $24, and a takeover bid circular will be mailed to CanniMed's shareholders.

"We believe that we will be able to accelerate CanniMed's growth more effectively than current management, and so we invite and encourage CanniMed's shareholders to tender their shares to the bid," said Aurora CEO Terry Booth in a news release Friday.

Aurora (ACB.TO ) also outlined the conditions of its offer, including that CanniMed's (CMED.TO) recently proposed acquisition of The Tragically Hip-backed marijuana company Newstrike (HIP.TO) not proceed and be terminated.

Aurora says its offer will remain on the table until March 9, 2018. The acquisition would see Aurora serve 40,000 active registered patients, compared to 63,000 at Canada's largest marijuana company, Canopy Growth Corp. (WEED.TO).

This comes after Aurora first announced on Nov. 14 it submitted its takeover proposal to CanniMed's board, and that it had agreements with shareholders representing 38 per cent of CanniMed's outstanding shares to support its bid. It gave CanniMed until Nov. 17 to respond to its bid, which offers shareholders a 57 per cent premium.

On Nov. 14, CanniMed acknowledged Aurora's announcement but said it did not receive a formal offer. CanniMed also added it was in advanced discussions to acquire Newstrike, which has a partnership with iconic Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip. On Nov. 17 CanniMed announced it had reached a definitive agreement to acquire Newstrike.

By Nov. 20, Aurora said it did not get a response from CanniMed and planned to go hostile with its offer this week.

CanniMed said on Friday its special committee is reviewing Aurora’s bid and will respond in due course.

“The only certainty for CanniMed shareholders is in the attractive and accretive Newstrike acquisition before them. We can understand why a deal with CanniMed makes sense for Aurora but it makes no sense for our shareholders," said CanniMed CEO Brent Zettl in a press release. 

CanniMed said Wednesday it had formed a special committee in anticipation of a formal offer from Aurora.

Aurora has been on a shopping spree, announcing the purchase of greenhouse design firm Larssen Ltd. on Thursday morning and Quebec-based medical marijuana applicant H2 Biopharma Inc. later that evening.

After Aurora's latest $100 million financing announced earlier this month, there will be more acquisitions to come, said Beacon Securities analyst Vahan Ajamian.

"The company is on an M&A spree, and they still have $340 million of cash," he said. "They see great value in assets in Canada and internationally, and they're going to keep expanding to build an international behemoth."

-- With files from BNN