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Why Marijuana Stock Neptune Wellness Fell 12.1% in March

Beth McKenna, The Motley Fool

What happened

Shares of Neptune Wellness Solutions (NASDAQ: NEPT) declined 12.1% in March, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. For context, the S&P 500 returned 1.9% last month. 

This month, the stock has climbed 5.4% through Thursday, April 4.

The Canada-based company, which last fall changed its name from Neptune Technologies & Bioresourrces (yes, a double "r"), has traditionally been focused on nutraceuticals. Leveraging its experience in extraction, purification, and formulation of value-added products, Neptune Wellness recently entered the cannabis market. In late March, it announced that it had "completed initial commercial production lots and is now shipping cannabis extracts from its licensed, GPP [good production practices] facility" in Quebec. 

Several cannabis plants with blue sky in background.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Neptune Wellness didn't announce any negative news last month, nor was it the specific subject of any such news. So, we can probably attribute the stock's March decrease largely to weakness in the overall sector. The group generally had a strong start to 2019, so pullbacks on profit-taking shouldn't be unexpected. Last month's release of weaker-than-expected quarterly results by several top cannabis companies likely added to the negative sentiment. For context, shares of major Canadian cannabis growers Canopy Growth (NYSE: CGC), Tilray, and Cronos Group dropped 8.5%, 19.4%, and 14.8%, respectively, in March. 

Speaking of Canopy, in June, Neptune announced that it entered a multiyear agreement, including minimum volume commitments, with the Canadian cannabis grower. Under the terms of the agreement, "Neptune will supplement Canopy Growth's extraction, refinement, and extract product formulation capacity," according to the press release. 

Despite last month's pullback, Neptune Wellness stock is still having a good year, driven by investor excitement about the company's entrance into the cannabis market. It's up 30.3% in 2019 through April 4, outpacing the broader market's performance by about 2-to-1.

NEPT Chart

Data by YCharts.

Now what

Neptune Wellness has not yet announced a date for the release of its results for the fourth quarter and full year of fiscal 2019. Those results will give investors a very early indication of how the company's new cannabis business is performing.

In Neptune's recent press release about its completion of its initial production run of cannabis extract, CFO Mario Paradis said that management continues to expect positive EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) from the cannabis business within its first year of production. The company currently is not profitable.

As with most cannabis stocks, Neptune stock should be considered risky and volatile. 

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Beth McKenna owns shares of Canopy Growth. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.