Nearly two months ago, my new BFF made a big bet on Chipotle buying nearly 10% of its stock. Yes, that was my billionaire BFF Bill Ackman.
Unfortunately, Billy didn’t give me a courtesy call beforehand. (Naturally, as such a call might violate every security law. Also, Bill Ackman isn’t really my BFF… just in case you didn’t the joke.)
Ackman making such a large investment in Chiptole was an extremely positive sign. The stock jumped up around 7% on the news, if I’m reading the charts correctly. By the end of the day, it was trading at nearly $440.
Flash forward to yesterday…
By the end of trading, Chipotle was at $368 and change, losing more than 9% after announcing earnings. You can buy Chipotle now even cheaper than the “smart money.” That always gets my attention.
Chipotle is cheaper for a reason. It didn’t just drop in half from $750 to $375 for nothing. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve heard about the health issues. It scared customers away. Revenues are down. Chipotle had to resort to giving away free food.
The big drop in stock price due to people staying away… at least more than what analysts thought. Comparable sales dropped 22% from the previous quarter and they were predicted to drop only 18%.
I love when a stock is beat up. I view it as being on sale, “Buy Chipotle, now 50% off!” I also view it as waving a flag, “hey, it can’t get any worse.”
I also believe that the best time to visit a restaurant is after a health scare. It’s a combination of “they’ll be extremely focused on preventing that from happening again” and “lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place.” (Although with Chipotle, I think it did strike twice.) The health scare problems seem to be well behind it now. The storm has ended and it feels like it’s time for the clouds to pass and the sun to come out.
On the other side, even after the big drop in price, Chipotle has a P/E of ~55. Compare that to McDonalds which has a P/E of 21 after performing well in the last 15 months or so. Shouldn’t McDonalds be trading at a premium P/E and Chipotle trading at the discounted P/E? A 55 P/E is high for a company that is performing well. I’m shocked to see that valuation on Chipotle given its problems. It feels like paying a premium for a car that has some parts falling off it. Even if you think you can repair it cheaply, why pay the premium?
I’m tempted to make the move and buy some Chipotle, but I think I’m going to pass for now. I simply can’t balance the following factors in my head: better than “smart money” sale, recovery from health scare, still trading at a high P/E. If I want to gamble, I’ll get a casino app for my tablet. It’ll probably be a lot more fun. At least I’d know I’d be playing with a known set of rules.
As for investing, I’ll be sticking to boring stocks like IBM. It continues to have a great price/earnings ratio, a very good dividend, and a strong stock buyback program. From a public relations perspective, making headlines for the right reasons with Watson is the opposite end of the spectrum than why Chipotle has been in the news.
I’ll still keep Chipotle on my watch list though. As it the “retailer” (stock market) makes it cheaper and cheaper, it’s getting more and more tempting for me.