A sign for a Chipotle Mexican restaurant is seen in Arlington, Virginia February 4, 2011. Upscale burrito chain Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc faces a wider probe of its hiring by U.S. immigration officials, after the company came under scrutiny in Minnesota and had to fire workers. Chipotle has received U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) "notices of inspection" for restaurants in Washington, D.C., and Virginia, co-Chief Executive Monty Moran told Reuters on Friday. .  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS FOOD SOCIETY EMPLOYMENT) - RTXXHC2

A sign for a Chipotle Mexican restaurant is seen in Arlington, Virginia February 4, 2011. Upscale burrito chain Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc faces a wider probe of its hiring by U.S. immigration officials, after the company came under scrutiny in ... Minnesota and had to fire workers. Chipotle has received U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) "notices of inspection" for restaurants in Washington, D.C., and Virginia, co-Chief Executive Monty Moran told Reuters on Friday. . REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS FOOD SOCIETY EMPLOYMENT) - RTXXHC2 (Reuters)

Chipotle Restaurant Sales Growth Decelerated, Shares Fall

Features Reuters

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc (CMG) on Tuesday reported that the growth of sales at established restaurants decelerated from prior quarters and slightly missed Wall Street's estimate, sending shares down more than 6 percent in after-hours trade.

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The fast-growing burrito chain is the envy of the restaurant industry. It trades at a rich valuation and, as a result, is harshly punished when it fails to exceed Wall Street's lofty expectations.

Fourth-quarter sales at Chipotle restaurants open at least 13 months, a closely watched gauge of industry performance, rose 16.1 percent in the fourth quarter. Analysts polled by Consensus Metrix expected 16.5 percent.

Chipotle, which is known for serving antibiotic-free meats and organic produce when available, reported same-restaurant sales gains of 19.8 percent for the third quarter and 17.3 percent for the second quarter.

Fourth-quarter net income was $121.2 million, or $3.84 per share, up from $79.6 million, or $2.53 per share, a year earlier.

Revenue for the quarter increased nearly 27 percent to $1.07 billion. The company attributed its industry-leading same-restaurant sales growth to an increase in customer visits, as well as the benefit of a nationwide menu price increase taken last summer.

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Chipotle also repeated its forecasts for 2015 same-restaurant sales growth in the low to mid-single digit percentages and 190 to 205 new restaurant openings.

Shares of Chipotle, which opened 60 new restaurants during the quarter, fell 6.4 percent to $680.12 in extended trade.

(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Steve Orlofsky)