Editor's Note: Jim Cramer's column runs exclusively on RealMoney.com; this is a special free look at his column. For a free trial subscription to RealMoney.com, click here. This article was published Jan. 16 on RealMoney.
We are seeing the backlash today all over the place. That's the backlash against complexity. The backlash of hard-to-understand financials. The backlash of earnings footnoted to death.
We see it in the selloff of
, a company that generates an extremely hard-to-understand quarterly report. We see it in the hammering of
for their asbestos footnotes. We see it in the knockdown of financials with more risk to the revenue line than we thought because of chargeoffs. We see it in the total inability of
to get out of its own way. And we are seeing it in
, which now founders, having just had its accounting questioned for the hundredth time by
I'm in the business of trying to interpret a trend for money. If I were at the hedge fund, I know I would be buying puts on the stocks of any over-footnoted, under-explained reports from companies.
But there is another, positive, trend that I see developing from this backlash against hard-to-understand (and therefore easy-for-hiding-the-bad) financials. People will pay more for companies with basic, easy-to-understand, easy-to-read businesses than they would before Enron.
Yesterday I commented that I saw safety stocks doing better, which seemed like an anomaly given the stronger retail sales. Maybe what we are really witnessing is a re-multiple-ization upwards of plain-vanilla businesses that don't have a lot of moving parts, acquisitions, partnerships, off-balance sheet deals and bizarre financings, not to mention complex derivatives, that can come back to haunt them.
-- plain-vanilla sorts -- will move up in valuation as people look for companies with a long tradition of simple reports. Many industrial companies similarly should be more highly valued. Health care companies without fancy accounting might also benefit.
I think we are early in this trend as most managers still think that they can judge complex accounting issues by themselves without help. (We can't. I always get help on this stuff from an accountant when I am in a jam). It is something to watch. It will put a premium on all sorts of companies that most people are bored of. And it will hurt the serial acquirers and the financials.
Something to watch.
James J. Cramer is a director and co-founder of TheStreet.com. He contributes daily market commentary for TheStreet.com's sites and serves as an adviser to the company's CEO. Outside contributing columnists for TheStreet.com and RealMoney.com, including Cramer, may, from time to time, write about stocks in which they have a position. In such cases, appropriate disclosure is made. At the time of publication, Cramer was long Tyco, General Electric, Cisco and PepsiCo.
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