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Pot firm backed by Russian banking veteran makes trading debut in Canada

New York

US POT companies are pushing north of the border in search of capital.

Curaleaf Inc, a Massachusetts-based company backed by Moscow banking veteran Boris Jordan with roughly 30 pot stores open in 12 states, is raising US$350 million through a private placement that values the company at about US$4 billion. The stock was set to start trading on Monday in Canada through a reverse takeover on the Canadian Securities Exchange (CSE) and will be one of the most valuable US pot firms.

"This is about creating a currency we can use to keep acquiring businesses," said Mr Jordan, the chief executive officer of Moscow-based Sputnik Group who is executive chairman of Curaleaf. "We think there is going to be huge consolidation - we're going to move very quickly."

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With marijuana now legal on a federal level in Canada, more US companies are seeking to take advantage of the buzz surrounding the industry with public listings there. That comes as the federal ban in the US has made it tricky to raise domestic capital, keeping many banks and large institutional investors largely on the sidelines as pot starts to go mainstream.

The CSE has become the go-to listing spot for cannabis companies with US operations, as the big New York exchanges and the Toronto Stock Exchange don't allow listings by companies that are violating federal law in the jurisdiction where they operate.

Canadian legalisation, meanwhile, is giving US companies a chance to raise money to fund acquisitions, as American firms jockey for position amid the continued creep of legalisation at the state level. While the tangle of state laws has made it difficult for national players to emerge, that is starting to change as companies including MedMen Enterprises Inc, Curaleaf and Acreage Holdings buy up licences and expand their footprint.

Mr Jordan and his partners took over a Massachusetts maker of medical devices in 2015 and spent more than US$100 million to create a national chain of dispensaries. Curaleaf - which had revenue of US$30 million in 2017 and expects to hit US$100 million this year - has medical stores open in New York, including one in Forest Hills, Queens. It's also focused on densely populated states like Massachusetts, New Jersey and Florida.

Mr Jordan co-founded Renaissance Capital more than two decades ago. BLOOMBERG