Pot producer Aphria posts quarterly loss as COVID-19 hits demand, shares slump

April 12 (Reuters) - Canada’s Aphria Inc reported a loss for the third quarter on Monday as the pot producer reeled from a coronavirus-induced slump in demand and one-time costs related to its deal for alcoholic beverages maker SweetWater.

U.S.-listed shares of Aphria slumped 10.5% in pre-market trading as it said that provincial boards, which buy cannabis from private companies for sales at government-run retail stores, had been taking measures to lower their inventory.

It said that provincial governments had lowered their orders for cannabis and returned product worth around C$5 million ($3.99 million), leading to a drop in its net cannabis revenue of C$4.1 million and signaling that market growth is expected to be weaker than previously forecast.

The Ontario-based firm also sold medical cannabis at a lower price due to pricing programs aimed at helping patients in need, while a shift in consumer buying preferences towards cheaper products such as cannabis flower and oils also hit its margins.

It posted a net loss of C$361 million, or C$1.14 per share, for the quarter ended Feb. 28, compared with a profit of C$5.7 million or, 2 Canadian cents per share, a year earlier.

The results included C$12 million in transaction costs for its acquisition of U.S.-based SweetWater and its reverse merger with Tilray, among others. ($1 = 1.2539 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by Arunima Kumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni)