Short-seller Jim Chanos reveals bets against Dunkin' Brands and Burger King's parent

Key Points
  • The Kynikos founder reveals he's been short fast-food stocks Dunkin' Brands and Restaurant Brands "for about a year."
  • On the news, shares of Dunkin' and Restaurant Brands traded lower in the premarket.
  • Chanos sees an end at some point to higher restaurant stock multiples as the restaurants themselves struggle.
Jim Chanos on why he's short Dunkin' Brands
Jim Chanos on why he's short Dunkin' Brands

Short-seller Jim Chanos revealed Thursday on CNBC that he's betting against two fast-food stocks.

The founder and president of Kynikos Associates said in a "Squawk Box" interview that he's shorting Dunkin' Brands and Burger King's parent Restaurant Brands International.

"We've been short these things for about a year," said Chanos, who's known for his past early negative calls on Enron and Tyco.

On Thursday's news, shares of Dunkin' saw an initial 5 percent spike lower in premarket trading before recovering some of those losses. Dunkin' had been up before Chanos' comments. The stock opened lower.

Dunkin' Brands CEO Nigel Travis pushed back on Chanos' call in a Thursday afternoon interview with CNBC's "Closing Bell."

"I love a challenge," Travis said. "And that was a challenge before our earnings this morning. And I have a book coming out later this year, so I'll take him head on. He's absolutely wrong."

Shares of Restaurant Brands — owner of Burger King, Tim Hortons and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen — sank about 3 percent on the news and then pared some of those declines. The stock opened down slightly.

In making his case, Chanos said price-to-earnings ratios for restaurant stocks have been going "higher, higher and higher as restaurants themselves have struggled."

"At some point, that has to come to an end," he said.

"This is part of a broader theme, ... the franchisers versus the franchisees," Chanos said. He said he doesn't like what he calls "this asset-light idea" of these companies not owning their restaurants while "basically clipping the coupons, collecting royalties" from the franchises.

"We're also short a number of these asset-light models," he said, but he did not reveal any names beyond Restaurant Brands and Dunkin'.

Dunkin' Brands on Thursday reported adjusted quarterly earnings of 62 cents per share — 9 cents better than expectations. However, revenue of $301.3 million fell short of estimates.

Shares of Dunkin' — owner of Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins — were 3.5 percent lower in 2018, but were about 13.3 percent higher in the past 12 months as of Wednesday's close.

Restaurant Brands said Tuesday that adjusted quarterly earnings were 66 cents a share — 10 cents higher than estimates. Revenue of $1.25 billion also beat expectations.

Shares of Restaurant Brands were 10.7 percent lower for 2018 and were down about 6 percent in the past 12 months as of Wednesday's close.

Restaurant Brands was immediately available to respond to CNBC's requests for comment on Chanos' interview.

Kynikos Associates, with more than $2 billion in assets under management, saw its short-only fund down 12 percent last year, according to sources familiar with the matter. Kynikos' hedge fund was up 22 percent last year, sources said, adding both funds are about flat in 2018.

Read about Chanos' other shorts: