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Planet Fitness Slips as Piper Cuts Chain to Neutral

Piper Sandler cut Planet Fitness to neutral, citing some short-term concerns but lauding its longer-term prospects.

Planet Fitness  (PLNT) - Get Planet Fitness Inc. Report stock slipped on Thursday after Piper Sandler cut its rating on the chain to neutral from overweight following the investment firm’s annual fitness survey.

Analyst Peter J. Keith affirmed a price target of $87, 50 times his estimate of 2022 earnings at the Newington, N.H., fitness group.

He likes the chain longer term but has reservations in the short term.

The survey results show two key declines: in new members interested in joining the chain  and in the chain's retention of current members. 

Both figures are at their lowest since April 2020, Keith said.

Half the people interested in joining Planet Fitness plan to do so in fourth-quarter 2021 or first-quarter 2022, he said.

Planet Fitness's total membership is unlikely to reach its prior peak until the first quarter of 2022, the analyst wrote.

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The survey says that people, including Planet Fitness members, are exercising more at home. The coronavirus pandemic closed fitness centers, and most everything else, for the better part of a year, prompting people to stay in.

“We also see a growing intent for those exercising at home to not return to the gym,” Keith wrote.

“Interest in connected home fitness (Peloton  (PTON) - Get Peloton Interactive Inc. Report, NordicTrack, etc.) remains strong. And survey results also show a step up in stimulus-check usage for fitness equipment (in 2021 vs. 2020).”

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With all this said, Keith adds that there’s “still a lot to like about Planet Fitness long term.”

“We continue to view [the chain as a long-term market-share winner in the fitness space, given” that competitors have closed and health-and-wellness trends are growing.

“Furthermore, we expect Planet Fitness to flex its marketing muscle this spring and summer to drive member growth.

“Last, [the chain] can still grow its [fitness center] base by about 85%, and we think it has perhaps the strongest franchise network in the country (for any industry).”

The shares at last check were off 1.3% at $85.44.