Aphria has cemented its position as a global leader in the burgeoning cannabis industry by snapping up LATAM Holdings Inc. from Scythian Biosciences.

It gives the Canadian firm a huge presence in Colombia, Argentina and Jamaica, plus the right to buy a Brazilian producer. There are 640 million people living in Latin America and the Caribbean, and several countries are relaxing their attitudes to cannabis, so Aphria is determined to carve out a large slice of the lucrative pie.

“The region represents a significant opportunity for long-term growth,” said Aphria chief executive Vic Neufeld. “It also hosts some of the most favourable conditions for cultivating high-quality medical cannabis at substantial efficiencies, ideal for both regional supply and export opportunities. This acquisition firmly cements Aphria’s leadership in the region and on the global cannabis stage.”

The deal to buy LATAM Holdings is set to close on Sept. 30. The plan was to give Scythian almost 15.7 million shares at a deemed price of $12.31 per share. That would have valued the sale at $193 million, giving Scythian a 6.3% share in Aphria, which would in turn take on $1 million of debt. But Aphria’s share price has since shot up, having risen 22.2% in the past month, meaning the deal could now be worth closer to $300 million. Andy DeFrancesco, board director at Scythian, which becomes the largest single shareholder in Aphria, said the firm would now enjoy a huge war chest of cash, allowing it to pursue its ambitious expansion strategy.

The deal “substantially enhances our funding for strategic early-stage investments,” said Scythian chief executive Rob Reid. It means that Aphria now has a 90% share in Colombian producer Colcanna, which is in the advanced stages of securing a THC license, plus full ownership of Argentinean distributor APB and a 49% stake in Marigold Projects Jamaica Limited, which holds one of the only Tier 3 cultivation licenses in Jamaica to cultivate, process and sell marijuana. It also now has first refusal to buy the majority ownership of a Brazilian producer.

Aphria’s big rival, Canopy Growth Corp., is also pursuing an aggressive strategy to corner off a segment of the Latin American market, having launched a subsidiary called Spectrum Cannabis Colombia in July, headed by Antonio Droghetti. It has interests in Colombia, Chile and Brazil, and Latin America is set to develop into a fascinating battleground as these ambitious firms compete for a dominant position. It also holds an interest in Jamaica, which has just sent its first ever export batch of CBD oil to Canada, and it’s also set to lock horns with Aphria in the Caribbean nation.

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