Why AFC Enterprises, Inc. Shares Cooled Off

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of AFC Enterprises were looking undercooked today, falling as much as 11% after the company posted underwhelming guidance in its quarterly report.

So what: The parent of the Popeye's fast-food restaurant chain actually beat estimates in the previous quarter. Earnings per share came in at $0.38, above expectations of $0.32, and revenue surged 26.7% to $49.3 million, topping the consensus at $46 million. Same-store sales grew robustly at 5.1%, and the company seems to be hitting on all points of its strategic plan, but investors were scared off by weaker-than-expected guidance. AFC actually bumped up the lower end of its full-year earnings-per-share guidance to $1.39 from $1.37, now calling for a range of $1.39-$1.42, but lowered its fourth-quarter same-store sales range to 3.5%-4%. Analysts had been expecting an EPS of $1.44.

Now what: This seems to be a typical Wall Street reaction, overvaluing guidance and ignoring a strong quarter, especially when many companies tend to provide conservative outlooks. Considering shares have nearly doubled this year, though, perhaps it's not surprising to see a pullback. AFC has beat earnings estimates in three of its four last quarters, so don't be surprised to see it do the same in Q4. Long-term, Popeye's has promised to deliver long-term EPS growth of 13%-15%, a level it's having no trouble achieving currently. Shares aren't cheap, but after one or two more drops like this, I'd be willing to take a bite.

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