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UPDATE 1-Ascend Wellness files for IPO as investor demand for U.S. weed grows

(Updates with details on store count)

March 29 (Reuters) - Ascend Wellness Holdings Llc, one of the largest U.S.-based cannabis operators, filed for an initial public offering of up to $125 million on Monday, as investor demand for U.S. marijuana firms continues to rise.

The New York City-based company has applied to list its Class A common stock on the Canadian Securities Exchange and for U.S. over-the-counter trading, according to a regulatory filing. (bit.ly/3cxmV22)

AWH’s filing places it among the first U.S. ‘multi-state operators’, or MSOs, to tap the public markets in what is expected to be a record year for cannabis debuts as key markets such as New York move towards legalization of recreational marijuana and banking reforms make progress in the country.

The company, like other U.S. firms whose businesses involve harvesting or selling marijuana, cannot currently list on the Nasdaq or NYSE as pot remains illegal at the federal level.

Michigan-focused Gage Cannabis Co, backed by prolific cannabis investor Jason Wild, is another U.S. firm pursuing a direct listing on the Canadian Securities Exchange.

AWH, which operates in five U.S. states, posted nearly $144 million in revenue last year, and was profitable on an adjusted gross basis, according to its filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Founded in 2018, the company has 13 open and operating retail locations, which it expects will expand to 20 by the end of the year. The expansion, however, is subject to factors including regulatory environment and the COVID-19 pandemic, AWH said.

Canaccord Genuity LLC is acting as representative of the underwriters, the company said. (Reporting by Arunima Kumar in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Arundhati Sarkar; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri)

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