Chipotle shares under pressure as E. coli outbreak broadens

Chipotle's Tough Year

NEW YORK (AP) -- Chipotle rebounded from a heavy sell-off in shares to end last week after it was discovered that the E. coli outbreak connected to restaurant chain had spread from the Pacific Northwest to a number of other states.

In all, 45 people in six states have been affected, with 43 of those saying they ate at Chipotle the week before they became sick.

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However, analysts who follow the restaurant chain say the damage to the company may be limited.

The equity research team at William Blair found that of the 800 people they surveyed earlier this month, nearly half were unaware of the E. coli outbreak linked to the restaurant. And the older the survey taker, the higher the rate of awareness, which is good news because Chipotle customers tend to skew under 45 years old.

Analyst Sharon Zackfia wrote that an outbreak of salmonella at 22 Chipotle restaurants in Minnesota "resulted in a double-digit drop in sales in the affected region for a few weeks before sales largely recovered."

See cases of E. coli outbreaks in recent years:

E. coli cases and food poisoning
See Gallery
Chipotle shares under pressure as E. coli outbreak broadens
BOSTON - AUGUST 23: Colony of E. coli cells are grown in the synthetic biology lab at Harvard Medical School in Boston on Tuesday, August 23 2011. (Photo by Wendy Maeda/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
ELIOT, ME - MAY 26: Kyler Dove, a seventh grader at Marshwood Middle School in Eliot, stops to take a drink from one of the 11,520 water bottles donated to the school Tuesday, May 26, 2015 by Cumberland Farms. Home Depot and Hannaford have also made donations to the school as it manages the current E coli scare. (Photo by Jill Brady/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
PORTLAND, OR - MAY 23: A shopper looks for bottled water on nearly empty shelves at a New Seasons Supermarket May 23, 2014 in Portland, Oregon. Oregon health officials ordered Portland to issue a boil-water alert after three separate samples tested positive for E. coli, a bacterium that can cause severe gastrointestinal illness. (Photo by Natalie Behring/Getty Images)
Jack Kurtz, 10, right, and mother Paula Gillett pose for portrait in their Rockford, Illinois home, November 5, 2009. Jack recovered from a food-borne illness last year. The source of the E. coli that hospitalized him was never determined. (Photo by Lane Christiansen/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images)
Madison Sedbrook, 6, right, and her mother Cindy are in their home at Highlands Ranch on Tuesday. Madison's parents are suing because she got e coli from eating raw cookie dough recalled by Nestle. Hyoung Chang/ The Denver Post (Photo By Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA - FEBRUARY 21: A BJ's Wholesale Club awaits customers on February 21, 2007 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Yesterday, the giant wholesaler announced a voluntary recall of prepackaged Wellsley Farms mushrooms, due to possible trace amounts of E.coli. No cases of the illness have been reported. (Photo by Jeff Fusco/Getty Images)

The E. coli outbreak, however, has received much more attention, however, and the Denver company closed 43 restaurants in Oregon and Washington in late October after health officials discovered most of the people sickened in the outbreak had eaten at its restaurants. Those restaurants have since reopened, but new cases were announced Friday in California, New York, Ohio, and Minnesota.

Shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. rose 4.5 percent to $560.48 in early trading Monday.

Shares fell 12 percent Friday and they were down sharply before the opening bell.

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