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Potbelly Sinks as Report Says Stock 'Grossly Overvalued'

Tickers in this article: PBPB

NEW YORK (TheStreet) - Potbelly shares sunk significantly in trading Monday following a report over the weekend that called the stock "grossly overvalued."

Following Potbelly's IPO earlier this month, a Barron's article on Oct. 12 made the case that the sandwich shop's metrics do not support its high valuation. The author revised his thoughts on Potbelly's stock, calling the stock "grossly overvalued" after initially calling the stock "richly valued."

"The Midwestern mid-priced sandwich-shop chain actually trades at a sky-high 114 times trailing earnings, not the rich 36 times we warned about," the article said.

"Relative to its history of growth or what's reasonable to expect in the future from a small restaurant chain, the valuation seems astronomical," the article said.

Earlier this month, the 288-store chain priced 7.5 million shares in the public markets at $14 a share, above the expected range. Potbelly shares rose an impressive 120% on Oct. 4, their first day of trading, closing at $30.77 as investors gobbled up what some believe could be the next Chipotle in the fast-casual sandwich space.

Including its overallotment, Potbelly ended up selling 8.62 million shares through the IPO, receiving net proceeds of $108.8 million, the company said on Oct. 9.

However, Potbelly previously disclosed in its registration filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that $49.9 million would be used to pay out an immediate cash dividend to investors, which included a venture capital fund started by Starbucks founder Howard Schultz. Another $14 million would be used to repay borrowings and for working capital and other general purposes, Potbelly said. That leaves about $45 million in proceeds from the offering.

Since Oct. 4, the stock has pulled back for the most part. Shares were down an additional 4.5% on Monday to $26.56.

The Barron's report pointed to Potbelly's 2012 net income, which actually fell slightly year over year to $7.15 million when you take out a tax benefit. Net income also declined in the first half of this year, the article noted.

In another instance, revenue growth was about 12% in the first half of 2012, lower than the 15.5% growth experienced in 2012. While double-digit revenue growth is still good, it's "not enough for triple-digit valuation."

On the other hand, the article pointed to the bullish case for the stock -- a 28% increase in income before taxes for the first half of 2013 and franchise possibilities, even though the company is planning conservative store growth of 10% a year and has said, at least in the near term, it plans to do "disciplined" franchising.

"Potbelly shareholders who bought the highs after the IPO could soon suffer indigestion. Its fair value probably lies closer to the IPO price than its current level," the article stated.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.