Domino's Growth Abroad Tantalizes

Despite a relatively mature market here in the United States and some sluggish growth abroad, Domino's Pizza (NYSE: DPZ  ) continues to grow sales and earnings at an attractive pace. Compared to an already-high-water mark in the year-ago quarter, the company is growing store-level sales in the high-single digits while many casual-dining and fast-food peers struggle. With the bonus of a small dividend payout (1%), this international growth play is an appealing stock that is easy to understand and lends itself well to long-term forecasts. Is Domino's one of fast food's best bets?

Earnings recap
Domino's story abroad is the main point of interest for investors as the company continues to post strong same-store sales and new unit growth figures. Excluding foreign currency effects, the pizza delivery behemoth achieved 7% growth in same-store sales at its nearly 6,000 international locations. Domestic comparable sales were slower yet still respectable at 3.7%. Leading the way for domestic stores were the franchised locations hitting 4% growth, while company-owned stores were sluggish at 1.2%.

On a global level, Domino's' retail revenue rose just under 10% (also excluding currency charges), led by organic growth in both order count and higher sales.

Domino's is still opening new stores in the United States, albeit at a slow pace (62 restaurants), and putting the proverbial pedal down on stores outside the U.S. -- 286 new stores.

The domestic pizza industry is dominated by a handful of players. No. 1 by market share is Yum! Brands' Pizza Hut, with roughly 15% of the market. Domino's comes in second with just under 10%. One compelling element about the mature, slow-growing industry here in the United States is the still-largely fractured landscape. Roughly 40% of pizza sales in the U.S. are sourced from independent pizzerias that also represent about 50% of the total number of pizzerias. So, while international new unit growth is the biggest selling point for Domino's stock and likely the culprit for its relatively rich 23.88 times forward earnings ratio, investors should keep in mind the opportunity to expand its business here in the U.S. via market share grabs.

Worth the price?
Based on valuation, Domino's certainly isn't cheap. The aforementioned forward earnings ratio is less than rival Papa John's (more than 25 times). On an EV/EBITDA basis, Domino's looks even richer at nearly 18 times trailing EBITDA -- coming in ahead of Papa John's 16 times. In two years, Domino's stock price has appreciated more than 100%. The market is clearly well aware of the growth prospects here and has priced it accordingly.

Investors may not be getting the company at a meaningful discount to its intrinsic value, but growth seekers should still pay attention to opportunities present. With new markets to explore abroad and existing ones to conquer here, along with industry trends such as digital ordering and new product innovation, there is plenty to keep Domino's sizzling in the foreseeable future. For those who are willing to pay the premium, this is one of the stronger plays in the global fast-food industry.

Sizzling growth opportunities
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