Consumer Products

What the Analyst Exodus in Freshpet Really Indicates

Freshpet Inc. (NASDAQ: FRPT) has gone from a hot stock to just another disappointing niche stock. The company missed on earnings and beat revenues, but lowered its guidance. And now we have analysts who have advised an exodus from the stock.

Freshpet showed a gain of almost 36% in sales to $30.6 million, while its adjusted EBITDA rose by $1.2 million to $2.3 million. The company said that its “Freshpet Fridges” count increased by some 13.1% to 14,670 from 12,970.

For guidance, the year 2015 sales were lowered to a range of $115.5 million to $117.0 million, down from a prior target of $117.0 million to $119.5 million. Its year-end “Fridges” count is now projected to be 14,900 to 15,000, versus a prior target of 15,100 to 15,600. That means that 2016 will have to be made up on a “Same-Fridges” basis or from higher prices if the company can pass that on.

Freshpet’s quote indicates that very little is wrong. Its stock says something very different. Richard Thompson, Freshpet’s chief executive officer, said:

In the third quarter, net sales increased 36%, driven by increased velocity per fridge, demonstrating continued consumer demand for Freshpet’s simple, natural pet foods. We made meaningful progress across several areas of our business, however, we experienced lower than expected Freshpet Fridge growth and our gross margin was negatively affected by manufacturing inefficiencies from new product innovation and the near term cost of adjusting processes on our primary products. As a result, we have updated our annual guidance to reflect these headwinds, and are intently focused on the execution of our operational and financial objectives. Going forward, we will further improve our manufacturing costs and processes, drive greater leverage across our business model and in turn, enhance long-term shareholder value.

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So, what do analysts think? Quite simply they are jumping ship.

  • Credit Suisse downgraded Freshpet to Neutral from Outperform and the price target was slashed to $9 from $19 (versus an $8.37 close), based on margin and EBITDA being lower than expected.
  • Canaccord Genuity maintained a Buy rating, but it slashed the target price to $11 from $21.
  • R.W. Baird maintained its Outperform rating but lowered its target to $13 from $24.
  • Stifel has a Buy rating, but it lowered its target to $9 from $18.
  • SunTrust Robinson Humphrey maintained its Buy rating but cut its target to $13 from $18.

Freshpet shares were last seen down almost 25% at $6.30, and it had traded 3 million shares by shortly after noon Eastern Time on Thursday. That was already almost six times the average daily volume. Freshpet’s 52-week range is now $5.89 to $25.92. This marks a post-IPO low, and the market cap is now $211 million.

As a reminder, the late 2014 IPO from Freshpet priced 10.4 million shares at a price of $15.00 per share. Niche companies can become wonderful investments. The flip side of that coin is that they can also implode, and the reasoning behind the drop can come from too many angles to easily count.

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