Friday, January 4, 2008

Chipotle falls, Toyota undervalued

A few months ago I wrote about the ridiculous valuation differences between Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) and Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD). I chose to buy BWLD, for which I have paid dearly; up until these last few days, an investment in Chipotle would paid off handsomely.

However, over the past few sessions, CMG has shed over 15%, with an awful 10% loss today. These huge losses haven't even been due to earnings warnings or other bad news; simple negative market sentiment has sent investors running.

I'm disappointed I missed out on $20 of negative downside; over the past few weeks, I have been eying CMG as a potential short. (Well, I use puts, because there's less downside potential, greater upside potential, and less initial investment).

Last quarter, Chipotle reported fair earnings, with good growth in new stores. However, there were some cautious indicators, like slowing or stagnant same-stores sales growth.

Due to a slowing economy, higher prices of raw materials, and a continuation of the trend seen last quarter, I expect CMG to post lackluster earnings when it reports within the next month or so. I was waiting to purchase puts so I could get February contracts with less of a time-value premium, but unfortunately, I missed out on a lot of downside movement.

I don't know what CMG will do in the short term. If the market pops 2% on Monday, CMG may bounce up 5% along with it. If market sentiment continues to be negative, CMG may still slide. Either way, my six-month forecast remains very negative. CROX lost half of its value after a mildly disappointing quarter; CMG could be no different later this month.

Meanwhile, I don't understand why Toyota continues to slide sideways and downward. Just today, Toyota surpassed Ford in U.S. auto sales, and it will likely surpass GM in worldwide global sales this year. Toyota is a huge company that's still growing, in established markets (like the US) and emerging markets (China, etc.). Sure, a weakening economy may hurt Toyota, but I think that it's time for shares to start appreciating in value.

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