Cramer advises staying away from animal health play Elanco at these levels

  • CNBC's Jim Cramer says that while his "humanization of pets" thesis remains intact, the newly public Elanco Animal Health is not the way to play it.
  • While the former Eli Lilly subsidiary has intriguing prospects, Cramer can't recommend its stock at its current highs.

CNBC's Jim Cramer has long backed the "humanization of pets" theory — the notion that how much people spend on their pets is continually rising — but the latest animal-focused entrant to the public market did not fit Cramer's bill.

Last week, pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly spun off Elanco Animal Health via an initial public offering. A drug and vaccine developer, Elanco is a leader in medicinal feed additives, with 63 percent of its sales coming from food animals like chicken.

And while investors sent shares of Elanco up 50 percent in their first trading day, the "Mad Money" host wasn't as thrilled about the company's prospects.

"As much as I like corporate breakups and the humanization of pets and the rising popularity of chicken and other proteins, I can't recommend Elanco [Animal] Health right here, versus, say, Zoetis for value or Idexx for growth," Cramer said, noting two of his favorite competitors.

His points of hesitation? First, while the company looks good on paper, focusing on companion animal disease prevention and therapeutics as well as what it calls the "future" of protein, Elanco's numbers look tepid vis-a-vis its peers.

"Elanco's sales have pretty much been flat for the past three years, which is surprising for a company that's got exposure to both the humanization of pets and the world's voracious appetite for protein," Cramer said. "In comparison, Zoetis has high-single-digit sales growth, and Idexx has consistently delivered low-double-digit growth."

Moreover, while Elanco says its growth will come from companion animal products and "future protein" like chicken and fish, its biggest business seems to fall to the wayside.

"The one area that Elanco doesn't call out as a growth category is actually their largest business: ruminants and swine — think pigs, cows, goats, sheep," the "Mad Money" host said. "That division account[ed] for 41 percent of their sales last year. It sounds like even Elanco is not exactly enamored of their core business."

In Cramer's eyes, Elanco's situation comes down to valuation. He even said that, at the right level, he "would absolutely be a buyer" given Elanco's push towards capitalizing on the humanization of pets.

But unless Elanco's revenue growth picks up in a big way, Cramer said he wouldn't recommend the stock, particularly considering that Eli Lilly still owns about 80 percent of Elanco and will eventually have to distribute the stock to its shareholders, which could spur volatility.

"I think this could be a very intriguing story, but not until the stock goes lower or we get more reason to believe that the growth is accelerating," the "Mad Money" host concluded. "For now, I suggest you stay on the sidelines or visit our faves for the best risks and rewards."

Shares of Elanco ended Monday's trading session up 2.35 percent, at $34.90 a share.

WATCH: Cramer plays 'Know Your IPO' with Eli Lilly spinoff Elanco

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