​Chipotle posts a positive profit surprise

DENVER - Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) on Tuesday reported fourth-quarter earnings of $67.9 million, down 44 percent. The Denver-based fast-food company said it had a profit of $2.17 per share.

The results topped Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of 17 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of $1.85 per share.

The Mexican food chain posted 7 percent lower revenue, at $997.5 million in the period, missing Street forecasts. Eleven analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $1 billion. That marked Chipotle's first quarterly revenue drop as a publicly traded company.

For the year, it reported profit of $475.6 million, or $15.10 per share. Revenue was reported as $4.5 billion.

Chipotle also said the scope of a previously disclosed federal criminal investigation has widened beyond a single restaurant in California, adding it has been served with another subpoena requiring more documents related to its companywide food safety. Previously, Chipotle said it was served a subpoena in relation to a California restaurant, where there was a norovirus outbreak over the summer.

Chipotle shares have fallen roughly 1 percent since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index has decreased roughly 7 percent. In regular hours trading on Tuesday, the shares rose 0.7 percent, or $3.36, to hit $476. That's a decrease of 33 percent in the last 12 months.

Shortly after the earnings announcement Chipotle was trading down in after hours by 1.9 percent, to $467.

Just yesterday, the federal agency that monitors public health said the outbreak of E. coli illness linked to Chipotle restaurants that sickened 60 people in 14 states appears to be over.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday the most recent illness reported to the agency started on Dec. 1.