Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Tobacco leader Altria announced Friday that it was pouring $1.8 billion into the Canadian cannabis company Cronos, giving it 45 percent ownership with an option to have a majority stake in the next five years.
Atria, formerly Philip Morris, makes the move after watching its stock tumble 25 percent this year and outlook on the company's growth projected at about one percent this year and 2019.
Cronos has benefited in recent months from Canada's legalization of recreational marijuana as well as more states jumping on the recreational and medical pot bandwagon last month through voter initiatives.
"Investing in Cronos Group as our exclusive partner in the emerging global cannabis category represents an exciting new growth opportunity for Altria," Howard Willard, Altria's chairman and chief executive officer said in a statement.
"We believe that Cronos Group's excellent management team has built capabilities necessary to compete globally, and we look forward to helping Cronos Group realize its significant growth potential," Willard continued.
The purchase is the second involving a big-money deal connected with a Canadian marijuana company in recent months. Canopy Growth received a multibillion-dollar investment from Corona owner Constellation Brands in August, CNN Business reported.
"Altria is the ideal partner for Cronos Group, providing the resources and expertise we need to meaningfully accelerate our strategic growth," Mike Gorenstein, Cronos's chairman and chief executive officer said in a statement.
"The proceeds from Altria's investment will enable us to more quickly expand our global infrastructure and distribution footprint, while also increasing investments in (research and development) and brands that resonate with our consumers," he continued.
Altria's shares increased two percent in early Friday trading while Cronos' shares soared to more than 30 percent.