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From the ground up: City View Green is building a winning cannabis strategy piece by piece

From the ground up: City View Green is building a winning cannabis strategy piece by piece 

The Canadian cannabis industry is ripe with targets for mergers and acquisitions. For Rob Fia, CEO of Icon Exploration (TSX-V- IEX), which is completing a reverse takeover of private company City View Green (CVG), the idea of building a state-of-the art cannabis company from the ground up offered a better value proposition. In just over 12 months, the company has made significant strides to develop a solid business footing while applying for its Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) licence, and plans to go public soon.

With almost 20 years in finance and investment banking, Rob Fia developed a knack for finding companies that were great investment candidates, identifying missing pieces, seeding them with cash, fixing what needed to be fixed and taking them public. But as CEO of mining and exploration company Icon Exploration, his attention continued to turn to the promise of the emerging Canadian cannabis industry.

I was approached by plenty of cannabis startups looking for investors,

he says.

But they were lacking the fundamentals I was looking for. I finally decided that it made much more sense to build a company from the ground up that incorporated all of the fundamentals that the others were lacking.

Learning from earlier players in the cannabis sector, Fia set out to secure a state-of-the-art growing facility, while assembling an experienced management and operational team that could deliver on the business plan.

He notes that supply will be critical to the industry over the short run, probably through 2019.

We initially saw stocks that were exploding just on an announcement of construction of a cultivation facility,

he says.

We’re now realizing that it isn’t only about crop yield. Over the long term, it’s about lowering production costs and developing efficient extraction and processing methodologies. It’s also about developing consumer products focused on the retail market, because the higher margins and potential will be there, not in flower. We’re particularly strong on beverages and cosmetics derived from cannabis, infused with either CBD or THC.

CVG is already preparing a 40,000-square-foot growing facility in Brantford, Ont., to produce pharmaceutical-grade cannabis, employing experienced contractors with extensive experience in the pharmaceutical and medical cannabis space. Initially, about half the facility will be outfitted with state-of-the-art LED lighting, HVAC systems and automation technologies to optimize the quality, safety and consistency of cannabis production. About 4,000 square feet will be devoted to an extraction laboratory, which will feature an ultra-efficient CO2 supercritical extraction process.

Building a talented team is paramount. The company has already secured two Master Growers with cannabis-industry experience to manage indoor grow operations. CVG has also retained an extraction expert from the mature Washington state cannabis sector, who has amassed significant expertise in developing and launching new products.

We’ve shortlisted our slate of potential CEOs and we’re looking at a well-known individual with strong experience in the alcohol and beverage industry,

says Fia.

CVG is also building relationships with other companies in the cannabis sector.

We’re negotiating a letter of intent with an entity that has 37 retail cannabis licences in Alberta, and we’re looking at an exchange of shares with that distribution arm,

says Fia.

They would have access to our cannabis and we would have access to their retail space through the Alberta regulatory body, once our products are approved for sale. We’ve also been approached by a group of pharmacies in Germany to arrange an off-take agreement for CBD oils and extracts. To receive that kind of attention at this stage of the business is very encouraging.

CVG is currently working with several cannabis consultants, also investors, who are shepherding the company’s ACMPR application through the licensing process. Of about 2,800 companies that recently applied for licences, CVG is one of 400 still under consideration.

The company plans to go public in November after unhalting the stock involved in the reverse merger.

If you differentiate yourself in the market, you’ll attract the attention of investors,

says Fia.

I think we’re entering the market at just the right time. We’re getting in at the second inning of a long ballgame. There’s a lot of room to be a powerful entry into the space, and once the market sees what we’ve done here, it will be very exciting.

This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of City View Green.

October 23, 2018

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