Is Dunkin' the Next Chipotle?

TheStreet.com

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Once upon a time, there was a unique chain of Mexican-style fast-food restaurants that made some of the best burritos around, at a reasonable price.

Ironically they were owned by a very big, powerful fast-food dynasty known as McDonald's MCD . McDonald's decided to spin-off the chain of Mexican-style fast-food restaurants. We know these restaurants under the spicy name Chipotle Mexican Grill CMG . CMG happens to be in correction mode on Wednesday June 27, down almost 6% on over triple the average daily volume.

According to Investor's Business Daily, CMG fell after Investment Technology Group said in a report that "Chipotle's same-store sales comparisons appear to be decelerating sequentially."

ITG estimated Chipotle's second-quarter same-store sales growth at 7.5% year over year. The Wall Street consensus is for CMG to experience close to 10% same-store sales growth.

Now back to our story. As we board our WSTM, or Wall Street Time Machine, conceived many years ago by H.G. Wells, we return to the week of March 6, 2006 and we purchase 200 shares of CMG stock at $41-a-share.

Then we push the "back-to-the-future" button on our WSTM to the week of April 9, 2012 when we sell our 200 shares for a jaw-dropping $442-a-share.

Our original $8,200 investment is sold for $88,400. That's a total return of 1,078%, and we have almost enough money to buy a low-end Tesla electric car.

Except for those on the WSTM, this story has happened to a small number of very lucky investors who saw the potential growth of CMG, as the 6-year chart below demonstrates.

Notice that after running up to almost $150 a share in the week of Dec. 24, 2007, you could have purchased more shares during the week of Nov. 17, 2008 for $36.86, and for the next 3.4 years you would have experienced quite a ride.


We don't have the luxury of going back to the past or accelerating back to the future, but with perfect 20-20 hindsight, we know what is possible.

Who would have dreamed this could happen to a fast-food restaurant stock? Well for starters, how about the brilliant visionaries who purchased MCD or Starbucks SBUX back when their stocks debuted on the public markets.

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Now we come to Dunkin' Brands DNKN , which includes its Dunkin' Donuts franchise. It's the largest coffee and baked goods restaurant in the world, with loyal customers in 31 countries.

Anyone who's enjoyed its hot beverages and array of quality baked good senses that it is in a league of its own and that this is a success story still in the making.

Its Baskin-Robbins ice cream store phenomenon is also the largest and one of the most loved chains of ice cream specialty stores in the world.

At the end of 2011, Dunkin' Brands' nearly 100% franchised business model included more than 10,000 Dunkin' Donuts restaurants and more than 6,700 Baskin-Robbins restaurants. For the full-year 2011, the company had system-wide sales of approximately $8.4 billion.

Headquartered in Canton, Mass., what makes Dunkin' Brands Group so unique? For one thing, it puts a strong emphasis on nutrition and actually has a Nutrition Advisory Board.

According to Dunkin Brands' Web site on this topic, its "...Nutrition Advisory Board, comprised of leading experts on nutrition, health and wellness, will assist Dunkin' Brands' management with research and perspective to aid in the development and reformulation of products that meet the evolving needs of customers while incorporating current nutritional science."

It became a publicly traded company back in the summer of 2011, and its stock price has a 52-week price range of $23.24 to $37.02. It closed Wednesday, June 27 at $34.84.

Also we received some insight on Wednesday when DNKN reported the filing of a SEC form 8-K, "Change in Directors or Principal Officers" according to a Yahoo! Finance report.


The filing stated, "On June 22, 2012, Andrew Balson, Anita Balaji and Todd Abbrecht each resigned from the Board of Directors (the "Board") of Dunkin' Brands Group, Inc. (the "Company"), including from their respective memberships on the committees of the Board. The resignations were not the result of any disagreement with the Company on any matter.

"Each of Mr. Balson, Ms. Balaji and Mr. Abbrecht was originally appointed to the Board pursuant to an investor agreement between the Company and each of Bain Capital Partners, LLC, The Carlyle Group and Thomas H. Lee Partners, L.P. (collectively, the "Sponsors") entered into in 2006 and amended and restated in connection with the Company's IPO in July 2011.

"Given the reduced ownership level of each Sponsor since our IPO, the Sponsors and the Board agreed that it was in the best interests of the Company to reposition the Board and maintain one representative of each Sponsor on the Board rather than two.

"The Board accepted the resignations of Mr. Abbrecht, Ms. Balaji and Mr. Balson and intends to reduce the size of the Board to 8 members."

In fact, 31% of the outstanding shares of DNKN are held by insiders and 5% owners. Total insider shares held over the past six months was reduced by 58.5% to 37.62 million shares.

Institutions increased their ownership from the prior quarter to the latest quarter by 27.44%, to a total of 67%, according to data made available through Yahoo! Finance.

The top two institutional investors are FMR LLC (Fidelity Investments) and TCG Holdings, a partnership owned by John Pesce, Mike Cochran and Wayne Desselle.

TCG Holdings owns several organizations that specialize in employee benefits and investments for school districts and other public employers.

The future of DNKN is very closely linked to the financial well-being of millions of investors all over the world and has become one of the darlings of major mutual funds and pensions. The company's first-quarter 2012 financial reports and its form 10-Q are a testimony to its growth and sound leadership. These can be found on its Web site's financials page. The chart below gives the less than 1-year historical view of the movement of DNKN stock.

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Due to its high P/E ratio of around 74 (forward estimated P/E of 24) and its high (6.71) price-to-sales ratio, I concluded that the stock seems richly valued at the present time.


Perhaps CMG had the same financial features in its first year of being a publicly traded company.

The first-quarter 2012 financial report found on Dunkin's Web site is a must-read for potential investors and maps out its growth strategy. I pulled out the following quote from the report, which I found insightful:

"The fundamentals of the business are extremely strong, and we remain laser-focused on our strategic imperatives -- operational excellence, brand-differentiating product innovation and world-class marketing," said Neil Moses, Dunkin' Brands Chief Financial Officer.

"We remain committed to delivering on our financial targets for the year and to enhancing shareholder value."

When the share price has a chance to cool down closer to the 100-day or 200-day moving average prices, I'd like to become a shareholder. Perhaps DNKN will be the next Chipotle Mexican Grill.

At the time of publication, Courtenay had no positions in any securities mentioned.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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