Cramer sifts through CB&I's mess to find what's pushing the Trump stock lower

As President Donald Trump's "Infrastructure Week" comes to a close, Jim Cramer decided to take a closer look at one perceived Trump stock that has been struggling of late.

"What in the world is going on with Chicago Bridge & Iron, CBI, the once-great industrial that's seen its stock get cut almost in half so far this year, including a 15 percent decline this week alone?" the "Mad Money" host asked. "Back in November, Chicago Bridge & Iron was seen as a quintessential Trump stock, the kind of company that could benefit from the president's infrastructure agenda and his embrace of domestic fossil fuel production."

Contrary to its name, Chicago Bridge & Iron, known as CB&I, deals chiefly in infrastructure projects for the energy and utility sectors, like building power plants and fuel transportation systems.

The company also gets some of its business from water, environmental and energy management systems, as well as construction and engineering projects for local governments.

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"That's what Chicago Bridge & Iron the company does, but from a stock perspective, all it really seems to do is go down, except for today where it caught a nice relief rally as part of a larger rotation," Cramer said. "Still, this week's decline has been staggering, the latest in a long line of beatings that's taken this stock from just under $90 three years ago ... down to $16 and change today."

Cramer attributed the stock's weakness mainly to declining oil and natural gas prices, which fell off a cliff in 2014 and put a damper on the energy infrastructure industry as a whole.

CB&I saw depressed sales and earnings as a result, but in 2014 managed to grow its revenues by 16.9 percent, with relatively flat sales in 2015. Then, however, sales dropped by over 17 percent in 2016, potentially due to oil prices' bottom in early 2016.

"So far, though, in 2017, Chicago Bridge & Iron has experienced a massive 31.5 percent revenue decline, just an incredible beat-down, and you can't just blame that on energy anymore," the "Mad Money" host said.

Some of the industrial's company-specific missteps may have cost it more than the downturns in oil prices, Cramer argued, starting with two acquisitions it made in 2012 and 2013.

In 2012, CB&I acquired Shaw Group for $3 billion, doubling its revenue and expanding its power plant portfolio. But along with the acquisition came a massive amount of debt, forcing the company to borrow more and more money.

Then, CB&I purchased Phillips 66's e-gas technology business, which transforms coal into a synthetic gas that generates power — an unfortunate and poorly timed bet on the dying coal industry, Cramer said.

"Now, fast forward to 2015 and things start to get really complicated. Among the businesses Chicago Bridge & Iron bought from Shaw Group was a company called Stone & Webster, and that's a nuclear power construction play. This division was partnered with Westinghouse to build two nuclear plants in South Carolina and Georgia, but the partnership became troubled, experiencing massive cost overruns," Cramer said.

Westinghouse eventually agreed to buy CB&I's nuclear business, but when the companies compared notes, disparities in the numbers caused CB&I to sue Westinghouse. The suit was thrown out and later appealed, and a decision has not yet been made.

To complicate things further, CB&I's longtime CEO, Philip Asherman, announced he would be stepping down several weeks ago, a move that many shareholders embraced but Cramer questioned because it made him wonder whether Asherman has information we do not.

The company also sold its capital services business to a private equity firm, making it look like it needed the cash.

To boot, Macquarie analysts put a downgrade on the stock with expectations that it would slide further yet to $11.50 on account of more debt pressure than the market anticipates.

And while CB&I's stock is trading at roughly 4 times earnings, Cramer warned that the incredibly cheap price might really turn out to be a value trap.

"Here's the bottom line: sometimes stocks go lower because they deserve to go lower. Never go bargain hunting with a busted piece of merchandise," Cramer said. "Of course, if Chicago Bridge & Iron wins its lawsuit in the near future, the stock will pop. But if they lose, the downside could be enormous, and you never want to speculate on a court outcome that we can't predict. Instead, stick with companies that have good fundamentals, like CB&I's cross-town rival, Illinois Tool Works, and watch CBI from the sidelines. It's a binary outcome and I prefer something far more predictable for you."

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