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We added PBPB to the Hedgeye Best Ideas list on 11/19/2013 at $28.15/share.  Since this time, 2014 EPS estimates have been revised down from $0.39 to $0.18 and the stock has acted accordingly (down ~60%).  We remain short PBPB and continue to have concerns with the company’s aggressive growth strategy, particularly in the face of fundamentals that suggest the chain shouldn’t be growing at all.

Potbelly preannounced disappointing 2Q14 results yesterday, including revenues of $83.6m ($86.7m est.) and adjusted EPS of $0.06 ($0.12m est.).  In addition, same-store sales declined -1.6%, 240 bps below consensus estimates, and traffic declined for a sixth consecutive quarter.  Management guided down full-year adjusted EPS to the $0.18-$0.21 range ($0.34 est.) and full-year same-store sales to flat to negative low-single digits (+0.8% est.). 

Back in November, when we made our original short call, we wrote:

“At the heart of it, Potbelly is a single daypart, low margin, low return sub shop with declining traffic and little competitive advantage over its most basic competitors.”

Though this seemed harsh at the time, the company’s results as a public company have given us little reason to retract these words.

Management provided few details, but did note that they are maintaining their guidance for 40-48 new unit openings in 2014 – a foolhardy decision, in our view.  This range implies 12-15% unit growth for the full-year when, in fact, the chain hasn’t justified any form of expansion.  It is likely that we will continue to dislike the company until management pulls their foot off the accelerator.  PBPB currently trades at 50.05x P/E (FY14), a multiple that typically reflects a strong growth company.  Considering declining same-store sales, traffic, margins and a questionable growth strategy, we continue to view the stock as unattractive.

As it stands, we believe FY15 estimates are too aggressive and will be revised down over the coming weeks.  At that time, we will reassess our positioning.

PBPB will hold its 2Q14 earnings call on Tuesday, August 5th, 2014 at 5:00pm EST.

Research Recap:

Investment Ideas: Shorts (04/16/2014)

PBPB Lays an Egg (02/19/2014)

PBPB: Not Worth of the Multiple

Potbelly (PBPB): The Latest Restaurant IPO

 PBPB: Staying Short - chart1

Howard Penney

Managing Director

Fred Masotta