Meta Growth plans rapid Ontario cannabis store expansion

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As the Ontario government opens up its cannabis retail market, Meta Growth Corp. (TSXV: META) says it’s gearing up for rapid expansion.

The Toronto-based pot retailer announced Monday that it received approval from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario for a general cannabis retail licence.

The new licence gives Meta Growth a chance to dramatically increase its Ontario retail footprint beyond the one store it currently operates in downtown Toronto.

While the company did not say how many stores it plans to open in the province, CEO Mark Goliger said the licence will help it execute its plan to increase its total store count across Canada from 12 to 35.

The Ontario government said it has received 700 applications for new operator licences since it began accepting applications Jan. 6. The province announced late last year it would replace its cannabis lottery system with a more open and free application process, and final store licences would be issued beginning in April, at an initial rate of about 20 a month.

Meta Cannabis said its plans include expanding to the maximum allowable number of stores in Ontario.

The province said it will first allow retailers a maximum of 10 cannabis stores in April, then 30 in September 2020, and 75 in September 2021.

“Securing our cannabis retail operator licence in Ontario is a necessary milestone for our expansion in Ontario,” Goliger said in a statement.

“We have secured urban and suburban prime real estate which are ready to build and are planned to open as soon as possible once the licensing approvals begin for the industry in April 2020.

Goliger added the company’s recently secured financing of $21 million through debt and a bought deal will help fund its aggressive roll out strategy.

Aside from its Toronto store, Meta Growth says a second location will open in Kitchener, Ont. on Feb. 28. Both locations are owned and operated by separate Ontario cannabis lottery winners, with consulting services and brand licensing from Meta Growth through two separate service agreements, the company said.

The company said its Manitoba and Saskatchewan stores will remain under the Meta Cannabis Supply Co. banner, but for future Ontario locations the company has redesigned its retail store brand to Meta Cannabis Co. The changes will include new store logos and overall interior design.

In November, Meta Growth changed its business name from Natural Access Cannabis, which was the company’s name since 2014 when it sold medical cannabis to patients under the ACMPR (Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations).

Meta Growth reported total revenue of $15.8 million for the quarter ended Nov. 30. That’s the highest recorded revenue among cannabis retailers, according to New Cannabis Ventures.

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