Why TravelCenters of America Shares Jumped

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of TravelCenters of America (NYSE: TA  ) were looking stronger today, up by as much as 18% after an impressive third-quarter earnings report.

So what: The gas-station chain turned in earnings of $0.53 per share, better than estimates at $0.44, even though sales came up short of the $2.11 billion consensus, increasing 1.4% to $2.06 billion. CEO Thomas O'Brien noted that EBITDAR and fuel gross margin per gallon increased year over year and implied that the company's performance would have been stronger without aggressive efforts from competitors that put a dent into fuel volume. Earnings per share actually fell from $0.66 a year ago, but EBITDAR inched up 5%.

Now what: TA's expansion efforts seem to be paying off, as the company is in the process of upgrading 26 travel centers, which it purchased since 2011. So far this year, TravelCenters has purchased six locations, growing its count by about 3%. With steady growth through acquisitions, management focused on margin improvement, and a forward P/E under 10, TA could be a solid value play.

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