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Cannabis Company Tilray's CEO Eyes Global, U.S. Opportunities After Megamerger

On the back of a megamerger with Aphria, the new Tilray is well-positioned to take advantage of global opportunities in cannabis, according to CEO Irwin Simon.
“Tilray today has a footprint all around the world,” said Simon, who previously led Aphria. “We are participating in a $100 billion category with tremendous growth opportunities around our brands and the categories that we participate in.”
The transaction closed Monday after shareholders approved the megamerger, and shares of the Tilray — newly combined with pot producer Aphria — kicked off trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange Wednesday under the ticker “TLRY.” They continue to trade on the Nasdaq Global Select Exchange, where the pot producer closed down more than 11 percent on Thursday.
The new, combined company, which retained Tilray’s name, serves patients across eight countries through affiliates in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Germany, and Portugal. It also owns a craft brewery in the U.S., and hemp food maker Manitoba Harvest, which sells branded hemp, CBD, and wellness products in some 17,000 stores across North America. The company has been eager to shun the label of Canadian cannabis producer, preferring instead to position itself as a global player with plans to introduce Aphria’s brands into Europe through CBD or medical products.
“The common denominator out there is adult-use. The common denominator out there is brands. The common denominator is a global platform,” Simon said. 
Andrew Carter of Stifel even stated that Tilray is best positioned to capitalize on global cannabis.
“We believe Tilray is currently best positioned to leverage a leading Canadian market position to capture global cannabis category growth,” he wrote in a note.
But the U.S., which cannabis data analytics firm Headset anticipates could generate $23 billion in sales this year, is also of special interest to Tilray. The company cannot currently enter the U.S. THC market, because cannabis is still federally illegal in the U.S., but Simon said Atlanta-based SweetWater Brewing Company, which Aphria acquired in November, will play a large role in cultivating brand recognition and deepening its U.S. footprint prior to federal legalization.
“There's opportunities with SweetWater to go into CBD drinks and expand those products. The other thing SweetWater is doing is taking some of the Aphria brands that were sold in Canada — Riff, Solei, and Good Supply — and coming out with vodka seltzers and IPAs and introducing those into the U.S. market and build-out our brands,” Simon said.
He also teased forthcoming acquisitions of companies either in categories the company is already in or that can help move Tilray into U.S. THC when the time comes. Simon said Tilray has already identified acquisition targets, but declined to disclose them.
“We're coming into the U.S., even if it's not with THC or legalized cannabis. With cannabis, we'll continue to grow our business there,” he said.
Some executives in the cannabis industry are extremely bullish that federal legalization will come sooner than later, especially on the back of statements by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) that his forthcoming legislation with colleagues Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) will address it. Canopy Growth CEO David Klein, for example, doubled down on predictions the company may be able to step across the border and enter the U.S. THC market as soon as 2021. Simon didn’t share a specific estimate on when legalization might occur, but did say he’d rather Tilray wait to enter the market once it's a bit clearer what regulations would look like.
When it does finally move into the U.S. cannabis market, Tilray wouldn’t be opposed to partnering with alcohol companies, Big Tobacco or other giants in CPG, which Simon said are eyeing the cannabis category for its potential to cannibalize some of their business. 
“Time will tell which is the right one that we will partner with, whether we'll strategically do something with. And I think there's going to be the right opportunities for us when that happens,” he said.
Once rivals, Aphria and Tilray first announced their planned merger in December 2020. But according to Marijuana Business Daily, talks were underway for more than a year and were beset by numerous hurdles related to the coronavirus pandemic and a competing bidder.
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