Why This Key Analyst Isn’t Hungry for Chipotle

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Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. (NYSE: CMG) shares slumped early on Monday after the stock was downgraded by a key analyst.

Wedbush downgraded Chipotle to Underperform from Neutral with a $445 price target, implying downside of about 14.5% from the current price level. The firm sees increased risk to near-term same-store sales (SSS) growth and margin expectations, with continued risk to margin expectations through 2020.

Overall, the firm’s third-quarter-to-date checks suggest SSS growth trending below the 5.7% consensus. Monthly cadence in the third quarter of 2017 consisted of a tougher July (+4.5%) and September (+6.0%), which laps the launch of Queso. As a result, considering an easier August comparison and a July comp roughly in-line with the second quarter’s 3.3%, there should be a higher SSS growth rate in August than its checks imply. Wedbush attributes a slowdown to the Ohio outbreak. The firm believes a higher year-over-year promotional cadence through the end of the third quarter is likely. However, Wedbush is lowering its third-quarter SSS growth estimate to 4.5% from 5.5%.

As a result, Wedbush lowered its earnings estimates for the next few years. The firm lowered its 2018 EPS estimate to $8.64 from $8.85, 2019 estimate to $11.43 from $11.47 and 2020 EPS to $14.00 to $14.19.

Shares of Chipotle closed Friday at $520.71, with a consensus analyst price target of $462.43 and a 52-week range of $247.52 to $530.68. Following the announcement, the stock was down about 1.5% at $513.00 in early trading indications Monday.

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