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Chipotle: It Doesn't Make Sense

The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet ) -- Over the past 12 months, there have been a handful of companies that have had the distinction of accomplishing that which often renders the market dazed and confused. We know about the disaster that has become Research in Motion (RIMM), which continues to remind investors how quickly a company can become grossly irrelevant when management becomes too stubborn to adapt.

On the flipside there is Apple (AAPL), which continues to defy all logic and common sense by producing one golden egg after the other - remarkably. It does this every six months when reason suggests that companies should not be able to what it has done.

But then again, in regards to Apple, it seems that the market has somewhat gotten around to expecting such performances to the extent that the amazement is starting to become the norm. But what does one make of a company such as Chipotle (CMG - Get Report), which has come out of nowhere to dominate not only the landscape of casual dining but also alter the backdrop of valuation metrics.

Upon the release of its IPO in 2006 the stock doubled on its first day of trading from $22 to $44. On Thursday is closed at $430. Allow that tidbit to "sizzle" for a second. So in both respects, Chipotle has applied new meaning to the term "it doesn't make sense." But then again sometimes in the stock market what "makes sense" is rarely (if ever) profitable.

One has to remember at one point it also made perfect sense to invest in former high-flyers like Lucent, Palm and even today, Research in Motion -- until of course it didn't. Leading into Chipotle's earnings results on Thursday, I was looking for confirmation that its P/E of 63 and $430 price tag still presented some value and I was pleased to see that the company did its best convincing act yet. But would Wall Street continue to buy?

The quarter that was

The company reported first-quarter earnings results that beat Wall Street estimates yet again as first quarter net income rose 35 percent to $62.7 million, or $1.97 per share - representing an increase of over 35 percent on an annual basis. The company reported revenue increase of 25.8 percent to $640 million while beating the mean analyst estimate of $1.93 per share or above the expected $630.6 million. That is a pretty remarkable performance when one considers that this is the third consecutive quarter that the company has demonstrated an increase in net income while also generating revenue growth in the double-digit areas for five consecutive quarters.
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