Jim Cramer thinks many of the nation's larger companies are confronting a difficult reality—the economy just isn't generating tailwinds in ways that can move the bottom line, at least not in any meaningful way.
Instead, they're facing slow growth and are now grappling with ways to navigate the challenges it presents.
"The simple fact is that growth is still slow all over, as , the Fed's Vice Chairman said today when he talked about disappointing growth in the world's economies," Cramer noted.
However, because Cramer also thinks leadership at many of these firms is actively looking to unlock shareholder value, he believes the potential of a merger or acquisition is now far more likely, if for no other reason than it can create synergies and cost savings.
"There's really only one choice when you're faced with terrible growth conditions and that's to take advantage of what's out there and make some acquisitions," Cramer said.
Looking at the current business environment, Cramer wouldn't be at all surprised to find any or all of the following companies on the prowl.
The first company Cramer suggested watching very carefully is Coca-Cola. With soda sales losing their fizz, Cramer thinks there's every reason to believe the cola giant may consider a play for Kraft, allowing them to better compete with PepsiCo, which owns Frito Lay.
Separately, both companies may be ailing but together Cramer says they could become a powerhouse with "Coke re-energizing the Kraft brands and giving Coke growth, again, through the snack business." Or, Cramer added, if Kraft won't negotiate, Mondelez may be a viable alternative.
Elsewhere in the market, Cramer said General Mills is probably trolling for growth, too. "How long can General Mills show no growth and yet still spew cash to buy back stock and pay a big dividend?" Looking at potential acquisitions, Cramer thinks Pinnacle Foods makes a good fit with the company's Birds Eye brand, giving General Foods dominance in the frozen food aisle.
Cramer added that Kellogg is another company in a pickle for its lack of growth. He thinks Pinnacle would make a good fit for this company, too. "Whichever company were to buy Pinnacle, I think shares would go higher on the news. And if Pinnacle doesn't want to sell, there's B&G Foods."
In addition, Cramer thinks both General Mills and Kellogg's would drool for the growth generated by natural and organic food makers. "I can see either buying Hain. An acquisition would give either company instant credibility in the natural and organic sections of the supermarket, the only real growth aisles out there. And whoever doesn't buy Hain should buy WhiteWave," Cramer said.
Turning attention to Clorox and Kimberly-Clark, Cramer said both companies have not been able to grow at a comfortable pace. "I have to wonder if Unilever, which has also showed paltry growth, is about to take a swing."
Cramer added that he wouldn't be surprised to see consolidation in the restaurant business. "And don't get me started on retailers. Ross, Bed Bath, TJX, all have seen their growth rates slow, although the latter may be temporary. Also, I think Supervalu could be snapped up in the supermarket business."
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Although Cramer could go on and on, identifying companies that need a shot of growth, he said the takeaway is that in this slow growth environment, a merger is the most likely way to achieve that growth.
And if Cramer knows it, it's likely that management knows it, too. "They aren't growing like they used to. However, a takeover can spur the growth that's required to really ignite the bottom line and, in turn, ignite the economy. Takeovers need to happen."
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