Is Now the Time to Pick up Papa John's Stock?

Papa John's options are relatively inexpensive right now

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It's been a solid year of returns for Papa John's Int'l, Inc. (NASDAQ:PZZA) stock, which has added over 56% since Jan. 1, and 52% year-over-year. While the stock's surge to a record high of $140.68 was short-lived, PZZA hasn't distanced itself too much from its peak. A familiar floor at the $120 level has emerged in recent months, while more immediate support at the 40-day moving average has helped guide shares higher during the past few weeks. Moreover, Papa John's International offers a forward dividend of $1.40 with a dividend yield of 1.07%.

pzza dec 23

There's room for a shift in analyst sentiment, with five of the 14 in coverage still calling PZZA a "hold." Plus, an additional unwinding of short interest could put some wind at the stock's back, as the 1.4 million shares sold short make up 4% of the stock's available float and would take four days to cover at its average daily pace of trading. 

Options traders may want to look into Papa John's stock, as its Schaeffer's Volatility Index (SVI) of 31% stands higher than just 18% of readings from the past 12 months. In other words, options traders are pricing in relatively low volatility expectations at the moment.  

From a fundamental point of view, Papa John’s stock still has a lot to prove before validating its current valuation. Although the pizza chain has maintained consistent top-line growth over the past couple of years, increasing revenues 28% since fiscal 2018, the company has struggled to generate profits on the bottom line. Papa John’s has posted $11 million in net losses over the past 12 months, which is nearly a $53 million decrease in comparison to its fiscal 2020 net income. In addition, Papa John's reported $7.6 million in net losses for fiscal 2019 and a 98.5% decrease in net income since fiscal 2018.

Perhaps the biggest fundamental positive for Papa John's stock is its price-sales ratio of 2.18 and the fact that PZZA has a forward price-earnings ratio of 34.48, indicating that the firm is expected to return to profitability, despite the figure still representing an inflated valuation. Overall, Papa John’s stock is likely too much of a gamble at the moment due to the high level of risk the company’s fundamentals present.


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