Oppenheimer Upgrades California Pizza to 'Buy'

Analyst Michael Smith sees an attractive buying opportunity for long-term investors as the restaurant operator sets a future growth plan

Oppenheimer upgraded California Pizza Kitchen (CPKI ) to buy from neutral.

Analyst Michael Smith says the current price is an attractive entry point for long-term investors. He says California Pizza expects to become more communicative with investors as it solidifies its future growth plans. The near-term story should include a discussion of a build-up of general and administrative expenses as the company rebuilds infrastructure.

The restaurant operator tried to take the bulk of charges associated with underperforming units in the third quarter, and a new management team will work to ensure that the company's financial problems are behind them, Smith says. He sees steps by management to meet their target goal of 15%+ earnings per share growth becoming clearer in 2004.

Also, Smith sees 89 cents 2003 earnings per share, and 97 cents in 2004. He has a $24 target.

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