Cramer argues that growth-challenged Coca-Cola should buy Monster


With investors more interested in cyclical stocks that do well when the global economy is growing, CNBC’s Jim Cramer revisited Coca-Cola to check on the beverage maker’s prospects.

Shares of Coca-Cola are hovering around their 52-week high, but as money flows out of consumer stocks and into industrial and technology names, the “Mad Money” host figured things will only get more difficult for the soft drink maker.

“But I think there’s something that these guys can do to control their own destiny,” Cramer said.

Coca-Cola is traditionally known for making strategic acquisitions. It bought Fuze and Vitamin Water in 2007, Honest Tea in 2011 and Keurig Green Mountain in 2014.

Also in 2014, Coca-Cola took a 16.7 percent stake in Monster Beverage, a popular energy drink maker. Since then, however, Coca-Cola’s deal activity has ground to a halt.

With a new CEO, James Quincey, at the helm, Coca-Cola has turned its focus to improving its strategy. In August, rumors surfaced that Coca-Cola could buy Monster outright, but no details have emerged since then; Coca-Cola didn’t even mention mergers in its latest earnings report.

But Cramer remained steadfast that the beverage giant needs to do a deal, “any deal.” Soft drink consumption is flattening overall and Coca-Cola’s sales have been declining, down 15 percent in the most recent quarter.

“Granted, Coca-Cola’s stock has outperformed PepsiCo’s … for 2017. I think that’s just because they’re playing catch up after years and years and years of sustained under-performance,” Cramer said.

Coca-Cola has also been doing worldwide distribution for Monster as part of its 2014 deal. Since then, Monster’s international sales have boomed, growing by 23 percent in 2016.

However, in February, Coca-Cola announced it wanted to move into healthier beverage categories, and according to its latest earnings report, its newer low- and no-sugar product lines have been growing.

“But overall, Coca-Cola is a growth challenged company,” Cramer said. “We know Coca-Cola’s committed to expanding into new categories. We know they like beverages. That doesn’t leave them with many options if they want to do a gigantic takeover that could move the needle.”

So, while fully acquiring Monster might cause some public relations friction given Coca-Cola’s healthier goals, Cramer said it would still be worth it for the $196 billion company.

“They can make the soda business healthier while they also move into the not-so-healthy energy drink space. The important thing is that Coca-Cola needs growth and Monster’s got growth in spades,” he said.

Energy drinks are still the fastest-growing beverage category, and Coca-Cola could easily absorb Monster’s business given the companies’ existing ties, the “Mad Money” host added.

“Here’s the bottom line: Coca-Cola needs to find some way to juice its growth rate, and buying Monster Beverage would do the job,” Cramer said. “That’s exactly what would make this stock intriguing in a market that’s gotten bored with the food and beverage space and … I think it would send Coca-Cola’s stock much, much higher.”

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