Although there are a variety of opinions among Wall Street analysts toward Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG), the average analyst is bullish on its stock. Investors in the burrito chain can take solace in this, given that its share price has been nearly cut in half in the wake of multiple food poisoning incidents at a number of its locations last year.
To be clear, analysts aren't falling all over themselves to recommend Chipotle.
Of the 36 analyst surveyed by Yahoo! Finance that track the chain, half of them rate its stock a hold. The other half are split, though not evenly, between analysts who think you should buy its stock versus those who think you should sell it. A dozen analysts rate it as either a buy or a strong buy, while six believe that investors should either steer clear of Chipotle or, if they already own its stock, sell it.
If you aggregate these opinions, the generally bullish sentiment toward Chipotle's stock shines through.
Yahoo! Finance does this by assigning each stock a "recommendation rating," which falls on a scale from 1 (strong buy) to 5 (strong sell). The middle point, 3, implies a rating of hold. Any rating below 3 is thus on the bullish end of the spectrum while ratings above this threshold are bearish.
Chipotle's rating is 2.8. This isn't wildly bullish, but it's bullish nonetheless.
It's worth noting that these ratings were published before it was announced this week that billionaire Bill Ackman has taken a 9.9% stake in the chain through his hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management. The news sent Chipotle's shares nearly 6% higher on Wednesday.
This is significant because it means that Chipotle's current share price ($438.45 as of Wednesday's close) is now right around the consensus estimate of $438.42 a share. As a result, the average analyst that's been bullish on Chipotle's stock will either have to raise their price targets or ratchet down their rating, from buy to hold.
It's still too early to say exactly how this will shake out, but I remain firmly entrenched in the bullish camp. My thesis is simple: Chipotle is a great company that's temporarily fallen on hard times. It's grown rapidly since its founding in 1993, has legions of loyal customers, and produces a product that I, and many other people, believe in.
For enterprising investors, in turn, this seems like a textbook case of being, in the words of Warren Buffett, greedy when others are fearful. As the 86-year-old billionaire says, "You pay a very high price for a cheery consensus."