Around April, Chipotle stock began climbing higher, as investors warmed up to the stock and foresaw great potential in the business. After all, it was on the cusp of going 18 months without a food-illness breakout -- a time frame TheStreet's Jim Cramer said was critical for the stock to get back on track.
And getting back on track it was, with shares up about 25% heading into June. But then the company had another illness breakout, albeit much smaller than its last one in December 2015, resetting the clock another 18 months. Shares plunged from almost $500 to less than $300 from May to October, as a result.
After Panera Bread was acquired for $7.5 billion earlier this year and recent reports of Buffalo Wild Wings' (BWLD) takeout for $2.9 billion, some are suggesting that Chipotle may be the next to go.
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Specifically, Bernstein analyst Sara Senatore calls Chipotle a "reasonably" attractive target.
"Within our coverage, CMG screens as the best takeout candidate," Cramer read from the research report. Given that the company is looking for new leadership, perhaps this is a reasonable outcome. Senatore points out that steady cash flow, the ability to boost cash flow, Chipotle's recognized brand and the ability to slow spending all make the stock an attractive M&A consideration.
In any regard, an increase in EBITDA margins and unit growth could allow for "outsized" returns for Chipotle stock, she said.
With Chipotle's current $9.2 billion market cap, a deal certainly wouldn't be cheap and would be much larger than the previous two named above, given that it would have to come at a premium as well.
What does Cramer, who also manages the Action Alerts PLUS charitable trust portfolio, think about it? It's an interesting possibility, given all the consolidation in fast-casual dining lately, he reasoned. But right now it doesn't look likely.
Shares are up roughly 2% to $325 as a result.
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