NEW YORK Jim Cramer is an Internet entrepreneur, a co-founder of magazines and star of his own TV show. Now, with a clever portrayal of himself in Iron Man, he’s also a film actor.
So why does this king of all business media beat up on media companies so regularly during his Mad Money show on CNBC?
Because, he told me recently, “I hate media stocks.”
Well, maybe not all of them.
Cramer, possibly the most influential stock-picker on television, is bullish on Disney and Discovery and semi-bullish on Viacom and Sirius Satellite Radio.
More on those picks later. First, the bad news as Cramer sees it for people whose investments are tied up in traditional media.
“The world got changed by two companies,” he says. “Apple is taking away the profitability of TV, and Google is taking it away in print. And it’s never going to reverse.”
In the near term, Google is the bigger villain.
“It’s just a parasite,” he says. “It doesn’t create content, it steals it, borrows it, shares it.”
It’s no secret that print media is in trouble. It’s why Gannett has gone from $80 a share in 2001 to less than $30 nowadays and why The New York Times has gone from $50 to less than $19 in the same time frame.
Time Warner, too, is saddled with print by way of a huge magazine business.
“Time Warner is a content company for old people,” Cramer says. “I try to get my kids to read magazines and newspapers, but no kids do. It’s a tragedy.”
Print’s woes also are why News Corp.’s purchase of The Wall Street Journal didn’t make much sense to Cramer, even though he loves the paper.
“Since Rupert Murdoch got in, it takes me 15 minutes extra each day to read the Journal because it’s so much better,” he says. “Murdoch made it great, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for the stock. That business isn’t growing.”
And growth is what Cramer’s stock picks are all about — and why he’s bullish on energy and infrastructure stocks, for example, but bearish on most of media.
“Chevron has gone from 6 percent to 10 percent long-term growth, and CBS has gone from 10 percent to 5 percent. I can’t recommend a stock with a declining growth rate,” he says.
Of course, it also makes no sense to overpay for growth, so Cramer no longer recommends Marvel, the studio that cast him in Iron Man.
“I would take the profits,” he says, noting that the stock is up 30 percent in three months.
Revenue growth or not, he’s not fond of companies that have a difficult time turning a profit, so Cramer fans might have missed out on some recent gains from the likes of TiVo, Imax and Warner Music Group.
Cramer told his audience a few years ago to sell TiVo at $6.24 a share, though the stock is up nearly 40 percent since then. Imax and WMG are up 18 percent and 70 percent, respectively, in just the past two months.
“I can’t recommend speculative stocks. They’ll come back and bite you,” he says.
Sirius is an exception: “When the FCC comes to its senses and approves the merger with XM, it’s worth a double to Sirius,” he says.
As for the few other media companies he’s bullish on, Cramer likes Discovery in the short term and Disney and to a lesser extent Viacom for the long term.
He started recommending Discovery at $21 and thinks it’s headed to $29. It closed Tuesday at $25.50.
“I’m a huge fan of Meerkat Manor,” he says, referring to the series on Discovery’s Animal Planet. Plus, he says, “They said in the third quarter they’ll unwind the ownership structure, and that’s very bullish.”
Viacom, Cramer says, is on his “Stocks for Children Under 6” list along with Disney. Those are stocks parents should buy their children to get them interested in the stock market.
And Cramer has recommended Disney since Robert Iger became CEO. “Disney has 13 percent long-term growth. That’s remarkable,” he says. “The franchises that Disney has in its power are awesome.”