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Drinking Through the Downturn?

You’d figure that beer is about as recession-proof as you can get. What better way to forget our economic woes than throwing back a couple? And we’ve got plenty to worry about, Cramer said, especially as President Obama continues to hammer away at entire sectors with his shareholder-unfriendly agenda.

But beer hasn’t been the haven you’d expect. Both AB InBev and Molson Coors Brewing reported weak quarters recently. The difference, though, is that Molson Coors earns 50% of its operating profits in Canada, which is outside Obama’s reach. There were other positives as well, Cramer pointed out, such as revenue growth per barrel. And on Wednesday, Molson Coors announced a cost-savings program expected to trim $100 million annually between 2010 and 2012. The company’s joint venture with SAB Miller, MillerCoors, should exceed the initial target savings of $500 million.

One thing Molson Coors didn’t do yesterday, the company’s analyst day, was raise the dividend. TAP pays 80 cents a share right now, a 2.3% yield that substantially lower than sector peers. With the $3 a share in free cash flow expected in 2009, there’s room for an increase. Cramer would like to see that.

CEO Peter Swinburn told Cramer today that his firm is always looking for the best way to use its cash, “and the best way is always to try and get the best return for shareholders.” So a dividend increase is “an option,” the CEO said, “and it’s something we keep under review on a constant basis.”

If TAP raised its dividend, Cramer said, “you’ll find me buying some Coors, and not just at the bar.”

Cramer and Swinburn also discussed taking market share from InBev, how declining raw costs will boost margins in the second half of 2009 and the importance of light beer. Watch the video for that.


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