Chipotle Gets Sauced Up

Everyone's hungry for the Chipotle Mexican Grill IPO that's likely to happen this week -- so much so that the fast-growing chain of 489 fast-yet-fresh Mexican food restaurants is raising its IPO price. Shares that were expected to initially fetch between $15.50 and $17.50 are now being marked up to a range between $18 and $20. That's investor demand at play, now raising the value of the company to as much as $700 million. The company will trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol CMG.

Shareholders aren't necessarily excited about the niche, though. Wendy's (NYSE: WEN  ) owns Baja Fresh, and CKE Restaurants (NYSE: CKR  ) has La Salsa, but no one is bidding up Wendy's and CKE's shares. In fact, Wendy's has had its stumbles with Baja Fresh in the past.

Instead, this IPO is getting so much attention because Chipotle is owned by McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) , the world's largest restaurant chain. No matter how quickly Chipotle would grow as a McDonald's subsidiary, it wouldn't amount to much of a trickle at Mickey D's. The growth has certainly been there, though; the company posted a 33% surge in revenue through the first nine months of 2005 on widening profit margins.

Things would be different if this were a standalone spinoff, with 34.3 million shares to split up the burrito booty, rather than a speck after being divided by the 1.3 billion shares outstanding at McDonald's. Yes, McDonald's will continue to own most of the shares -- and even more of the voting rights -- but it will give the market a chance to value Chipotle on its own growth prospects.

There were some rather lackluster eatery IPOs last year, including Kona Grill (Nasdaq: KONA  ) and Caribou Coffee (Nasdaq: CBOU  ) , that are trading lower than their market debut prices. But Chipotle is likely to pack a little more sizzle. Unlike Kona and Caribou, Chipotle is a profitable entity.

Yes, it will be a tasty -- and spicy -- IPO this week for Chipotle.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is partial to Baja Fresh, but he still may buy into Chipotle down the road if the price is right. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.


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