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Chipotle shares fall four% as rising digital orders decelerate from file tempo and underperform earnings

A customer wearing a protective mask enters a Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. restaurant in San Francisco, California. .

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Chipotle Mexican Grill reported Tuesday that sales in the same store rose more than 5% in the most recent quarter, driven by higher digital orders and the return of Carne Asada.

Given the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the company declined to provide a forecast for revenue growth in the same business in fiscal 2021, but it expects a strong first quarter.

Chipotle's shares fell 3.8% in expanded trading. The stock hit an all-time high of $ 1,553.55 on Tuesday.

The company reported for the quarter ended December 31st, versus Wall Street's expectations, based on an analyst survey conducted by Refinitiv:

Earnings per share: $ 3.48 adjusted versus $ 3.73 expected Revenue: $ 1.61 billion versus $ 1.61 billion expected

Chipotle reported net income of $ 190.9 million, or $ 6.69 per share, for the fourth quarter, compared to $ 72.4 million, or $ 2.55 per share, last year. The company recorded an income tax benefit of $ 3.77 per share for the quarter.

Without an income tax benefit, corporate reorganization expense, and other items, Chipotle earned $ 3.48 per share and fell short of what Refinitiv interviewed analysts had expected.

Net sales increased 11.6% to $ 1.61 billion and were in line with expectations.

Sales in the same store increased by 5.7%. The return of the Carne Asada in September has boosted demand. CEO Brian Niccol said the steak is expected to stay in March.

In addition, digital revenue nearly tripled, increasing 177% year-over-year to almost half of the company's quarterly revenue. Online sales grew 216% in Chipotle's second quarter and 202% in the third quarter.

So far, sales in the same store rose 11% in January due to the introduction of cauliflower rice, which costs an additional $ 2 per order. And if the pandemic doesn't worsen, the company expects first-quarter revenue growth in its mid-to-senior teens.

The company also said it had increased menu prices for delivery orders by an average of 13%. Third-party apps like DoorDash charge restaurants a commission that affects their profits. Chipotle had said in previous quarters that the higher incidence of supply orders sparked by the crisis had hurt profit margins.

Executives also said Covid-19-related costs, such as performance bonuses and sick pay for employees exposed to the virus, weighed on margins.

The company opened 61 new locations, moved two restaurants, and closed one in the quarter. Chipotle expects to open around 200 new restaurants in fiscal 2021, provided there is little construction and delays related to the crisis are allowed.

CFO Jack Hartung said the company could resume share buybacks at the end of the first quarter or in the second quarter, depending on economic conditions.

Read the full results report here.

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