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Can Blue Apron Stock Keep Going After Last Week's 19% Pop?

By Rick Munarriz - Dec 10, 2017 at 1:08PM

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Shares of the meal-kit specialist have risen 28% over the past six trading days. The market is applauding change at the top, but challenges remain.

One of this year's worst IPOs was one of last week's biggest winners. Shares of Blue Apron (APRN 12.64%) rose 18.9% for the week, moving higher on an analyst upgrade following the news near the end of the prior week that co-founder Matt Salzberg was stepping down. The stock has moved 28.4% higher over the past six trading days.

The rally has come as a relief to investors, but the stock is still far from eradicating its status as a broken IPO. Even after the recent surge, shares of the gourmet meal-kit provider find themselves trading 61.6% lower than the June IPO price of $10. Last week's upticks are welcome, but Blue Apron remains in Wall Street's dog house. 

A family preparing a Blue Apron meal.

Image source: Blue Apron.

Missing ingredients

Ross Sandler at Barclays kicked off last week's surge by upgrading Blue Apron from "underweight" to "equal weight." He lifted his price target from $3 to $4, a goal that the stock hit hours after the analyst move -- though it would close below that mark. 

Blue Apron's decision to replace Salzberg at the helm with CFO Brad Dickerson may seem like a non-event. Going with an insider has all of the appearances of a safe move at a time when the model can use some shaking up with sales expected to decline during the current quarter. However, Sandler is impressed by Dickerson's operational experience. Blue Apron's outgoing CEO also made comments of improving margins since a new food distribution facility opened. 

An outsider tapped as CEO would've been a glitzier market move. But making Dickerson a temporary CEO instead of Salzberg's replacement could've triggered buyout speculation. This doesn't mean Dickerson isn't the right call or that the acquisition chatter won't happen. Blue Apron's in a funk, and the low stock price does open up the possibility of a sale of the company.

Sandler's upgrade doesn't mean optimism is percolating on Wall Street. RBC Capital's Mark Mahaney responded by downgrading the stock, though to be fair, lowering his price target from $6 to $4 matches where his peer at Barclays perched himself. Salzberg's stepping down can be seen as an admission that a turnaround is far away, and even Sandler's upgrade concedes that competition is intensifying. 

Blue Apron has been a disappointment in less than six months of being publicly traded. It followed up a rough second quarter with a brutal third quarter, and its guidance suggests that the fourth quarter will be even worse. The model may need more than a new CEO or a distribution center to turn things around, but battered investors finally caught a break last week.

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