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Chipotle shares drop on 4Q earnings preview

Rising food costs resulted in lower-than-expected forecast for the quarter

Shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill fell Wednesday after the company released preliminary fourth-quarter results late Tuesday that did not meet analyst expectations due to rising food costs.

The Denver-based company released unaudited results for the Dec. 31-ended quarter because officials are scheduled to make a presentation at the annual ICR Xchange investor conference in Miami on Thursday.

Revenues for the quarter increased 17 percent to $699.2 million compared to $596.7 million for the fourth quarter of 2011. Same-store sales rose 3.8 percent, which the company said was mostly driven by traffic.

Earnings per share were expected to be in the range of $1.92 to $1.97, which fell below Wall Street analyst expectations of about $2.09, according to Thomson Reuters.

Food costs for the fast-casual chain were higher during the quarter by about 130 basis points because of commodity inflation. Margins shrunk to about 24.6 percent, down 150 basis points compared with the prior year.

The news sent Chipotle’s stock price down about 6 percent by midday Wednesday to $278.43 after closing at $297.32 the day before. Chipotle’s stock price had reached a high of $442.40 last April.

Monty Moran, Chipotle’s co-chief executive, however, indicated the company is expecting the commodities pressures to ease this year.

“We are pleased with our top-line revenue growth, as we opened a record number of new restaurants in 2012, and underlying comparable transaction growth continued during the fourth quarter,” he said in a statement. “While food costs, driven by underlying inflation increased faster than expected in the fourth quarter, we’re optimistic that food inflation will level off in 2013.

“We are confident in our ability to continue to drive attractive top-line sales growth in 2013 through a combination of new restaurant growth and by having teams of empowered top performers providing an extraordinary dining experience for our customers,” he added.

Chipotle said it would release final results for the fourth quarter and the full year on Feb. 5.

The company opened 60 restaurants during the quarter, for a total of more than 1,400.s

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected] [6]
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout [7]