The IPO market has certainly warmed up in 2013, but fast casual restaurant chain Noodles and Company (NDLS) has taken it to the next level with a more than 100% first-day gain. We haven’t seen that in a really long time.
So should investors jump in? Noodles and Company currently has about 340 units, has been growing at 15% annually recently (at least 10%+ each of the last ten years) and sees a potential market at 2,500 units over the next 15-20 years. In addition, the company earns a 20% unit-level cash flow margin, at the high end of its peer group.
The problem for investors though is not the growth story, it’s the price. After doubling on its first day of trading, NDLS fetches a $1.1 billion market value on about 33 million fully diluted shares. That is over 30 times the company’s 2012 EBITDA of $37 million, a ridiculous price! Even Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG), the most expensive dining stock around, trades at less than 20 times EBITDA.
The bottom line for me is that the Noodles and Company IPO has been very successful, but I would not touch the stock after it has doubled from $18 to $36 on the first day of trading. Chipotle is too expensive for my taste as well, but if you are looking for a very profitable casual dining stock with lots of growth potential and valuation is not a crucial element for you, CMG looks to be far more attractively priced than NDLS at today’s prices.
Full Disclosure: No positions in the stocks mentioned at the time of writing, but positions may change at any time.