Tuesday 14 May 2019 11:09 am Interactive Investor Talk

Why Domino's Pizza sell-off was overcooked

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By Graeme Evans from interactive investor.

Hungry bargain hunters gobbled up shares in Domino's, correctly betting than an early slump was unfair.

After selling 12 pizzas every second on New Year's Day, the rest of 2019 certainly hasn't panned out in the same emphatic fashion for Domino's Pizzaor its investors.

Shares slumped as much as 12 per cent in early deals, undoing all the rally of the past six weeks, as the company warned that its international operation would no longer break even this year. Its UK business of more than 1,100 stores also underwhelmed the City with like-for-like sales growth of 3.1 per cent in the quarter to March 31.

The fall-out from the first quarter update continues the poor run of form for the FTSE 250 stock, which had been testing the 400p barrier as recently as last summer.

The shares have ebbed away since then, even though Domino's deserves credit for continuing to show resilience in the face of competition from the likes of Just Eat (LSE:JE.) and Deliveroo. It's also had the distraction of an ongoing dispute with franchisees, some of whom are fighting for a bigger slice of profits.

Source: TradingView Past performance is not a guide to future performance

Last week's UK figures were distorted by tough comparatives from a year earlier after a £1.99 promotion helped to boost like-for-like sales by 7 per cent in Q1 2018. Volumes were down 2.7 per cent in the most recent period, despite that bumper New Year's Day when 516,500 pizzas were sold.

Analysts at Numis are relaxed about the first quarter performance in the UK, particularly as like-for-like sales on a two-year basis continue the 10 per cent growth rate seen in Q4.

Numis left its forecast unchanged for UK trading this year, although it is cutting group pre-tax profits by 5 per cent to £95 million due to the weaker guidance for the international division following its £4.1 million loss last year.

Domino's reported "persistently weak" system sales in all its international markets, with trading visibility also limited. New management teams in Norway, Sweden and Switzerland are attempting to improve the performance, but in the meantime the company is tightening its focus on costs and capital deployment.

Numis said the continued poor performance of a business accounting for 10% of trade will leave some investors to ask if Domino's should be deploying capital into loss-making markets.

However, the broker still remains supportive of Domino's and its highly cash generative business model. Trading on 15 times 2019 earnings, Numis said the shares were attractively valued and expected them to re-rate back towards 340p over time.

Canaccord Genuity has a price target of 310p, while UBS thinks the shares are worth 245p. UBS analyst Heidi Richardson said the lack of an update on discussions with UK franchisees was also disappointing given the limited visibility on future store openings.

Seven new UK stores were added in the year to date, compared with the 58 added in the previous financial year. Domino's admitted in full-year results that there were likely to be fewer new stores this year given the ongoing discussions with franchisees on commercial terms.

It said:

"A healthy pipeline of new stores remains, however openings continue to be impacted by ongoing franchisee discussions. We continue to engage actively with franchisees to support volume-driven growth and new store openings."

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