There Are Greener Pastures Than Green Mountain

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Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (Nasdaq: GMCR  ) apparently alleviated investors' fears with its first-quarter financial results, given the stock's spike today. However, prudent investors may want to regard Green Mountain shares with a healthy fear of heights.

Green Mountain's net income fell 78%, to $2.2 million, or $0.02 per share; that figure includes costs related to its Van Houtte transaction, as well as legal and accounting-related expenses related to its recent SEC inquiry. Excluding those costs, Green Mountain's net income came in at $26.1 million.

If investors are feeling more bullish on Green Mountain, it probably owes to the company's 67% revenue increase, to $575 million, and the way it surpassed Wall Street estimates. Green Mountain's Keurig single-cup brewer and its K-Cups helped the company generate robust holiday sales.

Nonetheless, I remain leery of Green Mountain as an investment right now. It has traditionally traded at high valuations, and that's still the case. It sports a forward price-to-earnings ratio of 23, outpacing multiples paid for rivals like Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX  ) and Caribou (Nasdaq: CBOU  ) , which trade at forward P/E ratios of 18 and 16, respectively.

Green Mountain's historically acquisitive nature makes its financial statements very complicated reading. Furthermore, the Van Houtte acquisition drove its debt load up to $1.09 billion, from $354.5 million in the previous quarter.

Though its super-convenient Keurig single-cup brewers are a big hit for at-home java jolts, Green Mountain still faces plenty of competition from Starbucks, Peet's (Nasdaq: PEET  ) , and Caribou, as well as fast food giant McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) , which has been excelling in peddling caffeinated beverages to price-conscious consumers.

Furthermore, commodity price inflation will be a major difficulty for many coffee purveyors going forward; Starbucks recently said that it will start passing some of its rising coffee costs on to customers. We'll have to see just how much coffee-related sticker shock caffeine fiends will bear.

There's a lot to like about Green Mountain: its sales growth, its Keurig single-cup brewers, and its environmentally positive mission. But despite today's optimism over its earnings beat and optimistic outlook, its stock remains expensive and risky.

Peet's Coffee & Tea is a Motley Fool Big Short short-sale choice. Green Mountain is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Starbucks is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Motley Fool Alpha has opened a short position on Green Mountain. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Alyce Lomax owns shares of Starbucks. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2011, at 12:31 PM, RunAmokOnWS wrote:

    Isn't GMCR a major supplier for McDonald's???

    I don't believe any serious coffee drinker would consider Starbucks in the same league as GMCR. If you want a coffee flavor drink you'll go to SB but if you want a good cup of Joe you'll stick with GMCR or other smaller competitors that are privately owned.

    Remember it's about taste and Green Mountain has some of the best tasting products; which is why people keep buying it.

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