Multinational tobacco giant Philip Morris International is buying the Israeli cannabis tech firm Syqe Medical in a deal worth up to $650 million, according to Israeli business newspaper Calcalist.
Syqe’s chief product is a metered-dose pharmaceutical-grade inhaler that allows patients to measure an exact dose of medical cannabis.
If completed, the deal would mark one of the biggest investments in the cannabis space by a tobacco producer in recent years.
In 2018, Altria Group, one of the largest tobacco companies in North America, pumped 2.4 billion Canadian dollars ($1.8 billion) into Ontario-based cannabis producer Cronos Group, though the Canadian company is now looking for a buyer.
The following year, British tobacco giant Imperial Brands invested CA$123 million in Toronto-based cannabis producer Auxly Cannabis Group.
Philip Morris’ reported $650 million agreement to purchase Syqe would make the Israeli company one of the most valuable cannabis firms in the world.
Both Syqe Medical and Philip Morris declined to comment.
According to Calcalist, the pending deal consists of milestones.
Philip Morris is investing $120 million upfront in Syqe.
If the Israeli company obtains approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its inhaler following clinical trials, Philip Morris would purchase the Syqe shares it doesn’t already own, bringing the total price to $650 million, according to the Calcalist report.
Owen Bennett, a cannabis and tobacco equity analyst for New York-based investment bank Jefferies Group, wrote on Tuesday that the $650 million valuation would make Syqe the seventh most valuable cannabis company in the world.
Bennett said the move could help Philip Morris tap the vaped medical cannabis market, which he pegged at $22 billion in the next 10 to 15 years.
“There is a significant opportunity in cannabis, spanning wellness and healthcare,” Bennett noted.
Philip Morris isn’t entirely new to the medical cannabis tech space.
The company earlier invested $20 million in Syqe Medical when it was a startup.
Philip Morris’ move to buy Syqe Medical comes two years after the New York-based cigarette maker told Bloomberg News it was analyzing the marijuana industry for market opportunities.
“We are doing all this work and will determine one day what avenues to pursue,” then-CEO Andre Calantzopoulos said at the time.
“But our priority is what we’re doing with our smoke-free products, and that’s where I would stay on cannabis,” he said.
Calantzopoulos is now executive chairman.
The Calcalist report said Syqe holds approximately 120 patents.
The inhaler is currently available in Israel and Australia.
The inhaler is reported to have taken eight years and $83 million to develop.
Matt Lamers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.