Are you hungry for yet another restaurant chain IPO?
The market probably is; after all, new dining stocks have been on fire this year. The share price of chicken and biscuits chain Bojangles (NASDAQ:BOJA) is up 47% less than a month after its IPO, while hotter-than-a-lit-grill burger joint Shake Shack (NYSE:SHAK) has risen nearly four-fold since its January market debut.
Now ready to order is Fogo de Chao, an operator of Brazilian restaurants that specialize in grilled meat entrees. The company has gotten the IPO ball rolling with several initial Securities and Exchange Commission filings. Let's grab a plate and see if this steak stock has any sizzle.
From Porto Alegre to Portland
Dining at a Brazilian steak house (or churrascaria, as it's called) is a unique food experience. Servers walk around with several varieties of grilled meat and other foods on skewers. Diners can opt for what a particular server is offering, or wait for another toting an item they might prefer. Medallions on the table indicate, depending on what side they're turned to, whether the diner is ready to be offered more or is satisfied for the moment.
Fogo de Chao has been delivering this experience for quite some time now. The chain has been in business for over 35 years.
It's the genuine article, having been established in Brazil and still an operator of restaurants there -- 10 of its 37 outlets are in the country, while one is located in San Juan, Puerto Rico, one (a joint venture) is in Mexico City, and the remainder are in high-population U.S. markets such as New York, Miami, and Los Angeles.
There's obviously an audience for what Fogo de Chao is dishing up. The current form of the company saw revenue advance by almost 20% on a year-over-year basis to $262 million in 2014, while the bottom line flipped to a profit of nearly $18 million that year, from a 2013 loss of almost $1 million.
One slightly less impressive financial line item is long-term debt. At the end of last year, the company had nearly $243 million of it, an amount approaching total annual revenue and far above the $19 million it held in cash and equivalents.
Additionally, Since 2012, Fogo de Chao has been owned by a private equity operator, Thomas H. Lee Partners. At the moment, Lee owns around 96% of the company, and if recent IPOs are any guide, it's likely it will hold on to a significant chunk after the restaurant chain hits the market.
Fogo de Chao will certainly be a one-of-a-kind issue once it's on the bourse. The air is getting thick with restaurant stocks; however, exactly none of them are Brazilian barbecue chains. The company's recent performance has been impressive, meanwhile, and with only 37 outlets, it has plenty of room for growth.
I don't think the appetite for restaurant IPOs is sated quite yet, so the above factors plus lingering demand for fresh issues in this hottest of sectors should lift the stock in its early trading days.
But that private equity ownership, which may not necessarily run the company in the best interests of smaller shareholders, plus the heavy long-term debt make me skeptical about its mid- to long-term future. I wouldn't be surprised if the company's stock price pops at first, then tapers off or declines once reality sets in.
Fogo de Chao hasn't yet specified a date for its IPO. The company has stated it aims to raise up to $75 million with its issue, and its stock is to be listed on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol FOGO. The lead underwriters are JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) unit J.P. Morgan, and Leucadia National's (NYSE:JEF) Jefferies.