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Donuts Rise From the Ashes

During the company's rapid growth phase in the early 2000s, there was a store located about 10 minutes from us, or you could just buy Krispy Kreme's at the local ACME. The store later closed, and ACME stopped selling the product. Now, they are much harder to come by, at least in our area. Yet, there are nearly 90 locations in Saudi Arabia, 50 plus in Qatar, and the list goes on. In January, the first franchise opened in India. Krispy Kreme is rebuilding itself, primarily via international franchising.

Investors have started to take notice again, as has Wall Street, and shares have doubled since last August. Despite the run-up, the company's enterprise value is still just $845 million. There was some speculation earlier this year that Krispy Kreme might be a takeover target, but that remains to be seen.

The balance sheet remains quite solid. The company ended its latest reported quarter with $50 million in cash, and just $26 million in total debt. Sweetening the deal from an asset perspective is that the company owns the land and building for 43 of its stores, and the building alone at another 22 locations.

KKD Long Term Debt Chart KKD Long Term Debt data by YCharts
When I took a position in early 2010, it was based on a belief that there was value in the company's brand, value in the real estate, and that the company was taking the right steps to fix itself, albeit in scaled down form. But it simply was not on the radar of most investors at that time. Some had no doubt been burned by the company's earlier fall from grace.

Now, Krispy Kreme is getting a lot more attention and scrutiny, and expectations are higher; not necessarily a positive. Sometimes the lines between growth and value are narrow, and Krispy Kreme appears to be back in growth mode. It's been a remarkable comeback so far.

We'll see if there's been further progress when the company reports fourth quarter and full year results on March 14th after market close.

At the time of publication, Heller was long KKD.

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

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