Cramer: Under Trump, These Are Probably Done Deals

 | Sep 19, 2017 | 3:35 PM EDT
  • Comment
  • Print Print
  • Print
Stock quotes in this article:

tmus

,

s

,

vz

,

t

,

post

,

bobe

,

pg

,

noc

,

oa

,

col

,

utx

,

hon

,

bhi

,

hal

No, I don't want you to be complacent. Yes, I want you to be skeptical. Absolutely I question how much longer these record-breaking numbers can go on.

But every time I want to say, "Are you kidding me? There's no way this thing can keep humming," something happens to make me think, wait, you can't just say, "Enough already, I have to curb my bullishness." There's so much good happening that you can't possibly sneer at it and still make the money you'd like to earn.

Take this morning. My Squawk on the Street partner, David Faber, broke one of the biggest stories of the year, about talks between T-Mobile (TMUS) and Sprint (S) to merge into one giant phone company.

Next thing you know, both stocks are flying. T-Mobile's stock's up a quick 5%. Sprint's equity rallies almost 10%.

Let's go over all the ways that this is incredible. First, ever since T-Mobile reported a good quarter and the stock sold off, you had to believe it's at the top of the cycle. As it is, the stocks of Verizon (VZ) and AT&T (T) have been awful, mostly because of brutal competition. Sprint's stock had been atrophying, too. Then you get this news and boom, it's like a whole new world of possibilities for shareholders of both companies.

Now here's what's truly amazing about all this. There was a time when we would say, "Oh come on, these two companies can't merge. It would be anti-consumer. It has no more chance to pass antitrust muster than AT&T's aborted bid to buy Sprint six years ago."

But then again, you have to say to yourself, maybe it's not so farfetched. Maybe it can happen under this government. Maybe this incredibly pro-business Trump administration would say the tie-up makes sense because we need three strong phone companies instead of four weaker ones.

Stranger things have happened.

Deutsche Telekom owns 64% of T-Mobile and has often been thought of as a seller of the property. Softbank has a huge stake in Sprint and I am sure would like the company to be on more solid ground, which is what would happen if we get a stock-for-stock merger.

I was about to tell David that this deal couldn't happen unless T-Mobile CEO John Legere gets to run the combined entity and, sure enough, before I could blurt it out, David said that's a key part of the deal.

Look, I want to be as skeptical as all get out about this tape. But these kinds of deals make it hard for me to be as critical as I would like to be, especially after yesterday's Halftime Report when Pete Najarian told us someone bought 10,000 T-Mobile October $67.50 calls. Nice move there, provided that the buyer didn't know something he shouldn't have. Then it would be "do not pass go, do not collect $200."

These deals are anything but isolated. This morning Post Holdings (POST) bought Bob Evans Farms (BOBE) , which sells sausages, mashed potatoes, bacon and a whole lot more, for $1.5 billion in what was a terrific deal that produced a 7% gain for Bob Evans, which had already been up 55% for the year. How much can you ask for from a market? The answer? More than you are getting. 

At the same time, on Squawk on the Street this morning we interviewed Nelson Peltz, who is trying to get a board seat at Procter & Gamble (PG) . He's waging what's known as a proxy fight where he is asking all you P&G shareholders to vote for him in the largest packaged-goods board challenge in history.

P&G's stock has been going up for ages on this battle. I keep thinking there's no way that it will continue to fly over one man's attempt to get on the board of the Cincinnati giant.

But it doesn't stop. It has rallied another dollar to an all-time high.

While proxy fights are rare, we would be blind to ignore the large number of takeovers occurring each week and, perhaps more important, like the potential Sprint-T-Mobile combination, I think the Trump administration may bless every one of them.

For example, yesterday when Northrop Grumman (NOC) bid for Orbital ATK (OA) , both the target's and, more importantly, the acquirer's stock went higher. Northrop Grumman's stock rallied again today.

How can the stock of Northrop Grumman keep going higher? For one, the synergies are pretty obvious. The possibilities for huge savings on the part of Northrop Grumman are obvious. The potential to bid on new contracts it didn't have could be enormous, especially when it comes to missiles, which is, in light of Rocket Man in North Korea -- the name President Trump gave to Kim Jung-un in his United Nations speech -- the hottest area of armaments for the moment.

Now back to how hard it is to be skeptical. Throughout the discussion of the takeover, one thing that wasn't mentioned was the possibility of this deal being blocked by the Justice Department's antitrust division. Nobody said, "You know what, this makes it so there are fewer competitors that could bid and drive down the price of important military equipment." It would almost sound like Pollyanna, goodie-two-shoes kind of talk if someone did.

That's amazing because a year ago I don't think this deal would have gone through, and if Hillary Clinton had won I don't even think the two companies would entertain it. Not any more than United Technologies (UTX) would be able to buy Rockwell Collins (COL) to eliminate a potential competitor in some key portions of the airline business, a deal that was announced two weeks ago. 

There's not been much done between the White House and Congress this year. It's been pretty rancorous with the latest posturing, the sit-down between the president and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer being still one more gambit that could sour things within the Republican Party. The repeal-and-replace horror-show waste of time, the border-tax fiasco, these are all distractions from two parts of the agenda that we would have expected by now -- tax reform and repatriation.

But one thing is for certain: This administration is demonstrating a love of the laissez-faire and it is possible that all of these deals will pass muster. In another time, with the exception of the Bob Evans deal, they wouldn't even be thought about for the obvious fear that they would have been opposed by the Justice Department's antitrust division simply because of market power concentration.

We've been able to keep our phone bill down because four companies compete for our business. But that competition will definitely die down if T-Mobile and Sprint merge. Yet I can't imagine this Justice Department's antitrust division trying to block this move.

Ideally, you want Northrop to compete with Orbital on contracts. Sure, they don't both make the same armaments, but why couldn't they if Northrop wanted into that business so badly? It's obviously anti-competitive.

You think the government would want United Tech to own a huge part of the plane to the point where it can be too powerful a supplier and box out, say, Honeywell (HON) ? I think the Democrats would find a reason to stop these deals because they are no friend of big business. But I think this government would bless anything, even the tie-ups between the health maintenance organizations and the aborted Baker Hughes (BHI) -Halliburton (HAL) deal that were blocked under the Obama administration's tough antitrust department.

Between here and year end, the notion that deals will get done without any repercussions or opposition from the Justice Department could end up being a hallmark of the stock market.

Again, I want to believe this rally can't continue. We have some stretched valuations that are difficult to defend. We have had huge moves that should lead to profit-taking.

But then when you get these bids and this kind of proxy fight and they all move up stocks, the bottom line is that it is awfully hard to be as disciplined as you would like. When discipline constantly costs you money, you have to start worrying if your discipline is misplaced and you have to develop the fortitude to stay in and not run out of this market. After all, that's been the smart call for all of 2017. I'm beginning to doubt if it won't be that way throughout what's supposed to be the worst month for stocks each year. Who knows? With this Justice Department looking the other way, can you imagine the deals that could be dreamed up?

I have to believe the wave's still early and it will last for as long as the buyer's stock goes higher and the market greets each deal with tremendous love.

Columnist Conversations

Six straight days of gains. Hard to believe the volatility is gone but that was some snap back. 10-year yields...
we like this chart here and how it pulled back up after last week's debacle. BOUGHT MSFT APR 92.5 CALL AT 3...

BEST IDEAS

REAL MONEY'S BEST IDEAS

News Breaks

Powered by
Except as otherwise indicated, quotes are delayed. Quotes delayed at least 20 minutes for all exchanges. Market Data & Company fundamental data provided by FactSet. Earnings and ratings provided by Zacks. Mutual fund data provided by Valueline. ETF data provided by Lipper. Powered and implemented by FactSet Digital Solutions Group.


TheStreet Ratings updates stock ratings daily. However, if no rating change occurs, the data on this page does not update. The data does update after 90 days if no rating change occurs within that time period.

FactSet calculates the Market Cap for the basic symbol to include common shares only. Year-to-date mutual fund returns are calculated on a monthly basis by Value Line and posted mid-month.