Chipotle Restaurant Sales Growth Decelerated, Shares Fall

Reuters

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc (NYSE: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.

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)