Cramer's new face of activism—follow this one

Visitors sit at the Qualcomm pavilion at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain last month.
Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Visitors sit at the Qualcomm pavilion at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain last month.

In the old days, Jim Cramer expected that when the news of a stock like Qualcomm didn't get a key contract for Apple's next iPhone, the stock would go down. Investors would shudder at the thought of dealing with Qualcomm and sell it with the thought that another stock should be bought.

But those were the old days of investing.

Qualcomm lost its contract with Apple, and on Tuesday Jana Partners pressured Qualcomm to spin off its wireless chip business in order to unlock value. In the old days of investing, hedge funds would have rang the register on the stock and ran. Now the tables have turned, and an activist such as Jana comes knocking at the door. It pointed out that Qualcomm's problem was never the Apple contract, it was the company's corporate structure.

Cramer thinks there are two reasons why this development is a big deal. First, if Apple had given Qualcomm the deal, then no one would be questioning its corporate structure.

Second, Jana clearly thought that Qualcomm would be worth the effort if it was up for a bid with one of the largest contracts out there. Jana didn't say that they would only want to work with a winner, not a loser.

"There are no real losers in the real world. There are only companies with lots of cash who win good business and others with lots of cash who lose good business but have strong balance sheets and simply aren't able to figure out how to bring out the value of their enterprise," Cramer said.

What Cramer loves about an activist like Jana is that the concept of just selling or giving up is foreign to these activists. There is no worry that management has seen the idea already or hasn't already thought of it.

Cramer has seen this new approach to activism when Jana managed to bring out enormous value in stocks like Walgreens and McGraw Hill. He therefore suspects that Qualcomm's management will have to follow Jana's wishes, because ultimately it will send the stock higher, and they don't want to purposefully send the stock lower.

It's a win-win for Jana.

So why doesn't every shareholder think like Jana?

Cramer suspects that it is because when a company screws up, most money managers accept that they made a mistake and move on. It is also because many hedge funds, mutual funds and pension funds are just interested in making a small change versus the benchmark, and then move on.

They never dream that they could make a significant change if they just used their power as a big shareholder to pressure management. Ultimately, an activist like Jana has its place in the world of investing.

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"Jana is as much about refusing to be a faux index fund as it is about the notion that might makes right—meaning the might of the balance sheet," Cramer added.

Cramer thinks that Jana's track record is strong enough that it is worth following them. And after it takes a bite out of Qualcomm, only good things could be in store down the road.

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