Gabriel Grego of Quintessential Capital Management has accused Canadian producer Aphria of playing a shell game with shareholders by purchasing non-existent assets for the sole profit of the company’s founders, according to a Financial Times report.
Grego is a well-known short seller. Short selling is the trading term for betting that a stock is overvalued and will soon fall in price. Grego does stand to make a profit on the fall of Aphria’s share price, which started shortly after the report’s publishing.
Aphria issued a statement denying the claims by Grego and Quintessential Capital Management.
“Allegations that have been made by the short seller Quintessential Capital in the report that they published this morning are false and defamatory. The company is preparing a comprehensive response to provide shareholders with the facts and is also pursuing all available legal options against Quintessential Capital.” — Aphria, in a statement emailed to the Financial Times
Grego has previously called out fraudulent activities by Greek jewelry chain Folli Follie. He claimed the chain’s Chinese sales numbers were fraudulently inflated, which he discovered while checking on the retail outlets supposedly in operation in China. There were far fewer retail outlets than claimed, backed by a later investigation by Alvarez & Marsal, a professional services firm. Grego’s Quintessential Capital Management also discovered fraudulent activity by technology company Globo PLC in 2015.
According to his report, Grego visited the locations of three of Aphria’s recent acquisitions in the Caribbean and Latin America, bought for a total of CA$280 million. Grego said that there were only empty buildings at the locations and that he did not see any employees or executives. The only assets that seem to exist are conditional cannabis licenses, he said.
Grego said rival Canadian companies like Tilray have also made international cannabis deals in Latin America but that those deals were completed for a fraction of the price and the companies purchased real assets.
The outcome of any legal action by Aphria — as well as any proof of value to shareholders — remains to be seen. By the end of trading on Monday, Aphria’s shares had fallen 30 percent.