October 12, 2018 / 11:16 AM / a month ago

Cannabis producer Aphria profit surges on strong demand, investment gains

(Reuters) - Cannabis producer Aphria Inc APH.TO posted a 41 percent rise in quarterly profit on Friday, boosted by strong demand and gains from its investments in medical marijuana companies Liberty Health Sciences and Hiku Brands Co.

Canada is set to become the first major economy to legalize recreational marijuana on Oct. 17 and shares in cannabis producers have rallied in anticipation.

The burgeoning Canadian marijuana industry has attracted interest from major U.S. firms. Walmart Inc’s (WMT.N) Canadian unit said on Tuesday it was exploring the possibility of selling cannabis-based products, but has no immediate plans to get into the business.

Last month, Coca-Cola Co (KO.N) said it was closely watching the marijuana drinks market for a possible entry.

Aphria is in talks to sell a stake in the company to Marlboro maker Altria Group Inc (MO.N), the Globe and Mail reported earlier this week, citing multiple sources. Aphria, however, said no agreement had been reached.

Aphria’s net income rose to C$21.2 million, or 9 Canadian cents per share, for the three months ended Aug. 31 from C$15.0 million, or 11 Canadian cents per share, a year earlier.

The company said its revenue more than doubled to C$13.29 million, helped by higher wholesale orders.

Reporting by John Benny in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva

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