The market has gone plumb loco for Shake Shack (NYSE:SHAK). Underwriters were hoping to take the 63-unit burger chain public for as little as $14 a few weeks ago. That was bumped all the way up to its debut at $21 last week, and that still wasn't enough with the stock soaring 119% on Friday.
It's against that backdrop that we find McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) meandering in a sauce that isn't very special. It's on an unflattering streak of five consecutive quarters of negative comps, and it just decided to replace its CEO with an internal hire.
Shake Shack is hot. McDonald's is not. However, shrewd investors may want to consider buying into the unloved giant over the trendy gourmet burger speedster.
Shake Shack is priced like a mansion
The worst thing about seeing a stock more than double off of its IPO price and more than triple off of the midpoint of its initial pricing range is that it finds retail investors paying a lot more than Wall Street pros figured the company was worth.
There are now nearly 36.3 million shares outstanding between the two classes of stock, and that means that this small yet growing chain that specializes in gourmet burgers and frozen custard treats packed a market cap of nearly $1.7 billion at the end of its first day of trading.
That's a lot of dough for an eatery that rang up just $106.7 million in sales through the past four quarters as of the end of September. It generated $82.5 million in revenue for all of 2013. There's plenty of upside, of course. With just 36 restaurants across the country -- the other 27 are licensed locations overseas -- it's easy to plot a course of growth over the years. It just entered Chicago. Austin's coming up. Shake Shack's targeting 10 new openings this year, giving it years of expansion-based growth.
The new locations won't be as successful as the first wave of New York City burger joints that rake in an average of $7 million a year. Shake Shack's prospectus expects new locations to average less than half that much in annual sales. There's plenty of real estate left to conquer, so it can make that up in volume. However, is any chain really worth 16 times trailing sales? With trailing net income of $4.5 million over the past four reported quarters, is any chain really worth 370 times trailing earnings?
At the other end of the valuation spectrum we have McDonald's. It trades at a somewhat steep 3.3 times sales, but a lot of that revenue is in the form of high-margin franchisee royalties. McDonald's fetches 19 times last year's earnings. That's not cheap, but it's also in a depressed state as the world's largest burger chain tries to bounce back from a challenging year and change.
Mickey D's is in a funk. It's coming off of five consecutive quarters of negative comps, and it just made a change at the top. Turning the Golden Arches around won't happen overnight, but the first step is winning back the public.
It's taking the right steps in that direction, even if the jury's still out on the battle to reverse consumer perceptions. Folks have lampooned last month's "Signs" campaign, and the current "Pay with Lovin'" promotion that kicked on Monday raised more eyebrows than applause.
These are risky moves, but can anyone seriously blame McDonald's for whitewashing its image, hoping to recast itself as a pillar of the community? It's been tackling food quality concerns and knocks on everything from drive-thru waits and employee unfriendliness. However, none of that changes until the public comes around, and that falls on the shoulders of marketing.
Along the way McDonald's continues to reward its loyal investors with a juicy 3.7% yield. It has increased its dividend every year since initiating a payout policy in 1976. Shake Shack is years if not decades away from returning money to its shareholders, and obviously its earnings multiple is going to contract sharply before it gets there.
Shake Shack has plenty of years of heady growth in its future, but it may take a couple of years before it justifies a $1.7 billion market cap. McDonald's, on the other hand, is trading at a discount to where its stock will be if its turnaround pans out. With a hefty yield as a floor it has more downside protection than Shake Shack. It's the better all around investment, even at a time when McDonald's may seem broken and Shake Shack is on top of the world.