We added Panera Bread Company (PNRA) to our Best Ideas list on 04/05/2013 at $177.20/share. Since this time, 2014 EPS estimates have been revised down substantially from $8.16 to $6.87 and the share price has acted accordingly (down ~10%). The S&P 500 is up ~26% over this time. With this note we are removing Short PNRA from our Best Ideas list.
PNRA still has issues, many of which we’ve previously voiced our concerns over, but the stock has been more resilient lately than we’d expected. At 9.80x EV/EBITDA (NTM) and 22.49x P/EPS (NTM), the stock screens quite attractive relative to other fast casual and quick service companies. To be clear, we believe disappointing news is largely baked in at these levels and have a difficult time seeing meaningful downside from here.
All told, we believe the Street thinks highly of CEO Ron Shaich – and they should. Mr. Shaich is a visionary that has built an incredible company and we believe he will be able to turn things around at Panera, but it will be a bumpy ride. We are also concerned with a lack of earnings visibility, insomuch that we are no longer comfortable staying short. May was another weak month for the restaurant industry, but it was the first month the trends improved on the margin in quite some time. 2Q14 is a difficult comp, but the back half of the year sets up quite favorably for Panera. This is not to say they will post blow out numbers, but simply to acknowledge the trends are likely to improve.
We are far from becoming a big fan of the stock, but to remain short, at these levels, would be unwise. We believe there are now better opportunities, both on the long and short side, elsewhere.