Chipotle Mexican Grill's (CMG) - Get Report same-store-sales momentum is continuing into the fourth quarter from the third quarter, said analysts at KeyBanc Capital Markets, who raised their price target and earnings estimates for the burrito chain.
Analysts Eric Gonzalez and Benjamin Blake in New York raised their price target on the stock to $870 from $860 and affirmed it overweight.
The Newport Beach, Calif., company is due to report third-quarter earnings Oct. 22 after the closing bell on Wall Street.
The comparisons for the third quarter will be tougher than those of the second quarter, but the analysts said that Chipotle's comparable-sales momentum was "sustained at a high level in the third quarter."
Avocado prices moderated in the third quarter after rising 50% in the second quarter, they said.
They added that nearly three years after an outbreak of E. coli "exposed several weaknesses" in Chipotle's processes, CEO Brian Niccol has "instilled a corporate culture centered on accountability and recognition and is addressing skills gaps in the areas of marketing, innovation, product testing, consumer insights and technology."
The stock is trading at 47 times KeyBanc's 2020 earnings estimates, making it one of the most expensive stocks in its coverage universe of publicly traded restaurant companies.
But the analysts said "sweeping changes to personnel and internal processes are already producing positive results." And Wall Street consensus earnings estimates "don't fully contemplate what is possible under this new management team."
What could go wrong? KeyBanc's bear case specifies the prospect that same-store sales will come up short of expectations and new marketing programs, menu innovation and brand initiatives fail to generate sufficient momentum.
Chipotle shares were trading on Wednesday off 0.3% at $824.