I confess. My wife owns Checkers
The big news is that Checkers is exploring strategic alternatives -- fancy Wall Street-speak for "We just might be willing to sell the dual-drive-through restaurants if the right offer arrives." The news has sent the stock up roughly 13%, and I can hardly wait to tell my wife it is up (although it is still below the price at which I suggested she sell).
The press release says it best: "Checkers Drive-In Restaurants... board of directors believes that the company's current stock price is not representative of the financial performance of the company."
Shareholders will be pleased to know my wife believes that, too. She looked at "her" Checkers at last Friday's close and saw it trading for 13.5 times this year's estimated earnings and 11.5 times 2006 earnings. She would say, "Didn't you say the S&P 500 is trading at 19 times trailing earnings? Why is my Checkers selling for such a discount?" It seems that the board is asking the very same question.
In fairness, the company's growth figures are well below that of industry peers, with Checkers posting revenue growth of 2% on a trailing-12-months basis, compared with 15% for Wendy's
The board has hired Citigroup
What has stimulated the enthusiasm on Wall Street is the potential sale of the company. This is a small company with only 12.9 million shares outstanding. Ah, but it is the largest, and perhaps the only, double-drive-through restaurant chain in the United States (save the ever-popular brew-through concept, popularized in North Carolina's Outer Banks).
What does Checkers have going for it? Good food; a unique concept (with 50% of all fast-food sales from the drive-through); $6.8 million in trailing annual free cash flow; decent 9.8% operating margins on a trailing-12-month basis, which is above the industry average, but below those of Sonic
Will the chain, with most of its operations in the Midwest and the Southeast, find an acquirer willing to pay an above-market price? That's hard to tell. Investors would be better off looking at the company's long-term prospects and buying the stock for that reason.
Oh, and here is my wife's response when she heard the news about the strategic alternatives: She is a long-term holder, and she is not selling.
Fool contributor W.D. Crotty owns, via his wife and granddaughter, stock in Checkers and McDonald's. And before the email starts flowing in, his wife was aware her words were headed for electronic print before this was released. Click here to see The Motley Fool's disclosure policy .