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Hormel Foods: A Star in the Prepared Foods Business

Cramer wrote regarding Hormel's decision, "The company will now dominate lunch, particularly the-bring-your-own-lunch contingent -- perfect for a country where the average worker is making less and less each year. Hormel is the player in ham, the No. 1 sandwich meat; this buyout will now make it the No. 2 player in peanut butter, the second-most-favored sandwich. It's incredible how smart that is."

"Plus," Cramer pointed out, "Skippy fits perfectly into Hormel's Chinese strategy, as it can be the best-of-breed U.S. player in two foods that are loved in that country." Now I hear the cash register "ca-chinking" and the flow of new moneys heading for Hormel's drawer.

The five-year chart below is like a picture that paints a thousand words. It not only shows the price but also HRL's declining free cash flow yield (important for sustaining the dividend) and it's improving quarterly income from continuing operations. The purchase of Skippy should help with the free cash flow yield.

HRL ChartHRL data by YCharts

The next earnings date for Hormel isn't until Feb. 21. Meanwhile shareholders will be paid a 2% dividend yield-to-price based on Friday's average share price of around $34, a 2.7% price increase from Thursday's close. Friday's volume was double the three-month average-daily-volume.

The investment community is rewarding savvy leadership and accretive transactions. They also like the fact that last quarter HRL increased its year-over-year earnings-per-share by 13%. As of Jan. 3, HRL had total debt of only $250 million, but its levered free cash flow (TTM) was a healthy $356 million.

Those of us who don't own shares of HRL yet might want to wait until the "Skippy-deal" celebrating is over and the stock pulls back. For example, on Jan. 2, the intraday low price was $31.46. The takeaway here is that HRL has smart leadership and a bright future. Its CEO is a shining example of "... the kind we need to see from companies to propel their stocks higher despite severe Washington headwinds" according to Jim Cramer.

At the time of publication the author held no positions in any of the companies mentioned.

Most large cap stocks were once small and mid-cap stocks. Bryan Ashenberg is here to help you find the cream of the crop amongst the market chaos.

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

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