Yum! Brands (YUM) Hits 52-Week High

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - Yum! Brands ( YUM) hit a 52-week high on Tuesday after the stock received an outperform rating by Oppenheimer analysts on Monday.

"Since October 2011, the stock is up 43% (vs. S&P's 28%), but our analysis suggests incremental upside to both earnings and valuation," Oppenheimer analysts wrote in a report Monday. "We are attracted to the unique business model that continues to shift toward emerging economies (now 60% of profits) which boosts ROIC and could extend the double-digit earnings runway for several years. Importantly, company-specific tailwinds in China (~45% of profits) are powerful and appear uncorrelated to slowing GDP. The reliable free cash flow stream could generate well over $1 billion in 2012 and lead to earnings-accretive share buybacks and double-digit dividend raises."

Shares of Yum! Brands hit a 52-week high Tuesday of $69.75. The stock's 52-week low of $47.15 was set on Oct. 4.

Yum! Brands has an estimated price-to-earnings ratio for next year of 18.53 times; the average for restaurant and bar companies is 19.96. For comparison, both Chipotle Mexican Grill ( CMG) and Panera Bread ( PNRA) have higher forward P/Es of 37.76 and 24.26, respectively.

Sixteen of the 23 analysts who cover Yum! Brands rated it buy; seven analysts gave the stock a hold rating.

TheStreet Ratings gives Yum! Brands an A+ grade with a buy rating and a $84.88 price target. The stock has risen 17.91% year to date.

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