Why It Is Time to Exit Keurig Green Mountain

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Keurig Green Mountain Inc. (NASDAQ: GMCR) shares hit an all-time high of $128.04 just on Tuesday of this week. And as fast as you can count, the stock was down almost $7 in just two trading sessions. The real culprit for the second wave of the pullback is an analyst downgrade.

Buckingham Research has issued a note signaling that traders should lock in their profits. Since earnings, shares had risen 37%. Before long-term investors panic here, Buckingham did note that the company is still making strong partnerships via Coca-Cola (and elsewhere like Target and Subway). The call is one of valuation, noting that upside is limited for the year ahead as the company pays up to launch new systems and fights higher coffee prices.

It is perhaps not so important what the analyst said, but what the call means. When a stock hits an all-time high and trades at a premium multiple, it means that every single owner who has ever bought shares can now sell out for a profit (likely a big profit). At some point, investors want to lock their gains in — at least a portion of them.

While this was not directly cited in the report, Keurig Green Mountain did announce on Thursday that it will open a manufacturing facility in Georgia of 585,000 square feet that will create 550 jobs. The cost: $337 million.

At $121.45 in late Thursday trading, its consensus analyst price target is listed as $121.90. After looking at the Thomson Reuters analyst montage, the lowest price target is $95 and the highest target is $150 for the stock. Its current price generates a valuation of 32 times 2014 earnings expectations and about 30 times expected 2015 earnings.

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Green Mountain is still growing, but that is far from cheap on an earnings basis. Starbucks is valued at 28.8 times expected 2014 earnings and about 24.4 times expected 2015 earnings. Neither company is cheap on an earnings multiple, but Keurig Green Mountain is handily more expensive after this last run up.