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Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD): Going Nowhere of Late

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After a huge surge in February last year, Buffalo Wild Wings (NASDAQ:BWLD) has gone virtually sideways. The stock had a huge day on February 7 where it surged from $70 to $82.50 yet the next year has seen nothing but disappointment for investors.

The company operates and franchises Buffalo Wild Wings (NASDAQ:BWLD) Grill & Bar restaurants with nearly 900 restaurants in 49 states and Canada. The restaurants feature a variety of chicken wing options along with 20 signature sauces and seasonings in a venue designed for viewing sporting events.

After a year of absorbing those gains has the growth of the company finally caught up with the stock price?

Q4 2012 Earnings Highlights

The company provided the following highlights for Q4 2012:

  • Total revenue increased 37.8% to $303.8 million
  • Company-owned restaurant sales grew 39.3% to $282.7 million
  • Same-store sales increased 5.8% at company-owned restaurants and 7.4% at franchised restaurants
  • Net earnings increased 22.3% to $16.7 million from $13.6 million, and earnings per diluted share increased 21.9% to $0.89 from $0.73

The market was generally disappointed as the company was expected to earn $0.96 during Q4. Guidance for Q1 was also disappointing as the company only expects flat year over year numbers. The big key will be whether it can achieve the new forecasted 25% earnings growth over 2012. The growth will come from the last 3 quarters in the year starting with Q2 growing by 22% over last year.

Investors need to understand that Buffalo Wild Wings (NASDAQ:BWLD) can be especially difficult to forecast quarter to quarter due to the constantly shifting sporting event dates. A NFL weekend can shift from one calendar year to the next while not impacting the financial prognosis of the concept.

The company has missed earnings expectations in the last three quarters, but conversely Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. (NYSE:CMG) missed estimates in the last two quarters and Panera Bread Co (NASDAQ:PNRA) has seen pressure on out year earnings. Though Panera doesn’t face the same pressure on meat prices being more focused on bread items than the other two.

Chicken wing prices

A key issue in the industry has been the rising prices for meat, especially chicken wings in the case of this company. For Q4, the company reported the price per pound had risen to $2.07 or a 46% increase from $1.42 last year. Q1 has continued to see price increases with price rising to $2.13 in the first two months of 2013. The average for Q1 last year was $1.92.

While most investors consider this a greater and greater concern, the logical assumption should be that prices would eventually revert to the mean. No rationale exists that one-time issues, such as the summer drought, won’t revert to the mean and at some point provide a tailwind for the pricing environment. Discretionary consumers will revert to cheaper food items and the higher prices will encourage chicken farmers to grow more. Eventually the system works and prices end up lower.

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