Chipotle Rallies After Data Researcher Predicts Sales Surprise

  • M Science says results will ‘easily beat’ consenus estimates
  • Chipotle investors have been waiting for rebound after crisis

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. shares rose the most in almost six weeks after data-analysis firm M Science predicted that first-quarter sales will “easily beat” Wall Street’s estimates, bringing a ray of optimism to a chain battered by a food-safety crisis.

The researcher studied same-store sales during February and the first 10 days of March, according to M Science Chief Executive Officer Michael Marrale. The firm made the call based on multiple data sets and proprietary models, he said.

Analysts have been predicting same-store sales growth of almost 15 percent for the first quarter, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s coming off a decline of 4.8 percent in the previous three months and a 30 percent plunge in the year-earlier period, when Chipotle was reeling from a series of foodborne-illness outbreaks.

The report brought new hope that Chipotle can bounce back soon from the crisis, which led to an exodus of customers and crushed its stock. The shares declined 21 percent in 2016, following a 30 percent decline the prior year.

Chipotle rose as much as 3.1 percent to $408.60 on Tuesday, the biggest intraday gain since Feb. 9. The shares had been up 5 percent this year through Monday’s close.

The Denver-based burrito seller has tried to draw back diners with free food and deals, along with heavy advertising. Chipotle also is trying to improve its digital ordering systems and may start selling dessert this spring.

The company declined to comment on financial results ahead of its official report next month.

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— With assistance by Janet Freund

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