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Looking Back on Wendy's

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Legendary Hall of Fame pitcher Satchel Paige, who last pitched in the major leagues at age 59, famously warned, "Don't look back. Something may be gaining on you."

Although there is something to be said for that sentiment as it applies to life, when it comes to investing, "looking back" can sometimes be an important learning tool. We all make mistakes as investors, and sometimes we get it right, but it is important to garner what we can from either instance.

As I downed one of Wendy's (WEN) new offerings, the pretzel bacon cheeseburger, yesterday, I ignored old Satchel's advice, and relived my decision last summer, to part ways with my Wendy's position after a three-year-plus holding period.

I'd been an early proponent of Wendy's following the company's 2008 merger with Arby's, but the ensuing years were challenging. Although Wendy's restaurants performed decently, Arby's same-store sales fell off a cliff, and the company just could not seem to get its engine hitting on all cylinders.

Wendy's released some new products, cut some costs and brought in new management, but the overall results were mediocre at best.

The company finally gave up on Arby's, selling all but a small stake in 2011. But even that move, which freed the company from what had been an anchor, had little effect. The stock all but traded sideways for four years, and I'd had enough by early last summer. Value investors are known for their patience, but mine had run out by that point. I moved on, and deployed that capital in other opportunities.

Fast forward several months, and Wendy's has recently gone on a tear. In fact, shares have risen more than 65% year to date and are currently trading at a five-year high.

What has changed? For one, the company's margins have been improving, and it has been reporting better results. Last quarter, earnings came in at 8 cents per share, ahead of the 6 cent consensus estimate. The company also recently raised its dividend 25%, to 5 cents. That, to me, may signal a level of confidence by management, and also provides a decent 2.5% yield.

WEN ChartWEN data by YCharts

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