Confessions Of A Chipotle Short

Feb.21.12 | About: Chipotle Mexican (CMG)

I'll admit being short Chipotle (NYSE:CMG) has been no "fun and games". The fact is, I have had my head served to me on platter in the process. I have justified holding the position as sort of a hedge /insurance policy against some of my other long positions. I'm also too stubborn to give up now, especially after the shares have become even more ridiculously priced. What if I cover and suddenly CMG suffers the same fate as NFLX? I would be devastated to be out of the position and then miss out on a huge opportunity for redemption, during the share's subsequent implosion process.

Earnings growth is contracting: In 2012, CMG is expected to grow its earnings 27.7% from $6.81 to $8.70, while in 2013, its growth rate is expected to contract 12% or 320 basis points to 24.5%, as earnings of $10.84 are forecasted. That means the shares possess a very generous forward multiple of 44 times 2102 estimates and 36 times 2013 estimates.

The stock's PEG ratio of 2.05, which takes its growth prospects into consideration, is also sending out a bearish signal (below 1.0 is bullish). Why is CMG's multiple three times higher than AAPL's, even though AAPL's earnings growth rate is actually higher? It just makes no sense, and sooner rather than later, Mr. Market will come to its senses and price CMG accordingly.

The analysts are still cheerleading: Although the average one year analyst target price of $383 has already been eclipsed, the shares are still 17% lower, than the highest target of $450. On the flip side, the shares are 33% above their most bearish analyst target of $260, implying more risk than reward. Exacerbating the problem is the fact that as more target prices are met, the chances that a downgrade will occur based on valuation purposes increase exponentially.

Follow the insiders: During the last six months CMG's insiders have sold 81,656 shares or roughly 15% of their entire holdings.The company's CFO, Jack Hartung, has already sold 15,000 shares since the beginning of the year. I guess he is taking advantage of the huge surge, as just two years ago, the shares were crossing the tape at just $104.

Bottom line: CMG's risk is higher than its reward at this juncture. Why hang around for a possible 20% return when the risk exposure is twice that amount? I have been dead wrong shorting this stock and have paid dearly for it, but in reality, "every dog has his day" and this "dog short" is more than ready to finally payoff in a very big way!

Disclosure: I am short CMG.