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Sink Your Teeth Into Yum! Brands

Now is the time of year to eat, drink and be merry. So how can you profit off the “eating” part of that holiday equation? “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer would sink his teeth into Yum! Brands, which operates KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.

Yum is “one of the best restaurant stocks around, and a terrific buy, especially on a pullback that the Europeans seem increasingly prone to give us between now and the end of the year,” Cramer said Monday.

It is also has one of the strongest international growth stories he's ever seen in the restaurant space.

China should account for 45 percent of Yum’s operating profit for this year. The Louisville, Ky.-based company has 4,200 locations in China and Cramer believes it could easily double that footprint. Plus, Chinese same-store sales rose 19 percent in the most recent quarter.

The company is also rapidly expanding outside around the rest of the globe. Yum’s non-China overseas division should account for 30 percent of its 2011 operating profit. Yum is forecasting a 34 percent increase in units next year and a 23 percent increase in same-store sales.

The U.S. has become the least important part of Yum’s business, but the company still expects its domestic profits to grow 5 percent next year. It has decided to refranchise many of its domestic stores, which Cramer thinks makes sense since it guarantees a stable revenue stream from royalty payments.

The company is also working hard to turn the domestic business around by laying off workers at Taco Bell, restructuring KFC and adding new menu items at Pizza Hut. Plus, there has been some speculation that it may sell the Taco Bell division or the entire U.S. segment. While Cramer wouldn’t bank on that happening, he thinks it could be very positive if it does.

Selling at 17.8 times next year’s earnings, with a 12.7 percent growth rate, Cramer doesn’t think this stock is too expensive. However, he’d like it more on a pullback since the stock is less than two points off its 52-week high.

“Be patient and you’ll get a chance to buy this fantastic international eating story at a discount the next time we get a European-induced market wide sell-off,” he said.

Call Cramer: 1-800-743-CNBC

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