Shares of the packaged food maker rose slightly to $89.47 in early trading Thursday as investors shrugged off concerns that the company's cost-cutting prowess is slowing down.
Kraft Heinz reported first quarter earnings of 84 cents a share on net sales of $6.36 billion, a 3.1 percent decline. Analysts expected earnings of 86 cents a share and net sales of $6.46 billion. Organic sales were down 2.7 percent for the quarter, compared with analysts' consensus estimates for a 0.6 percent decrease. Operating profit fell 3.4 percent to $1.89 billion, sharply below the consensus estimate for a 1 percent increase.
The company's last quarter was "miserable," TheStreet's Jim Cramer, manager of the Action Alerts PLUS portfolio, said on CNBC's "Mad Dash" segment.
A few months after Kraft Heinz's failed attempt to buy Unilever (UL) , the Pittsburgh- and Chicago-based company is also conceding that its reputation for ruthless cost-cutting may be scaring off potential targets.
Bernstein's Alexia Howard pressed management about this very issue, Cramer noted. "It was a stark moment on a very grim conference call," he said.
"We need to separate what's perception and what are facts," Kraft Heinz CEO Bernardo Hees told analysts on a conference call, identifying "ownership, meritocracy, high performance and dreaming big" as the company's five core values. "And I truly believe those five things are applicable in many companies and many segments and so on. So through this culture we have, I don't think it will be more difficult or easier to do any other transaction."
While there may be "a perception problem," particularly about Kraft Heinz's "cost cutting and so on," Hees said such a problem is "not for us to judge."
Still, Kraft Heinz, backed by 3G Capital and Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B - Get Report) , could use a deal. Gross profit margins fell to 36% from 36.2% a year ago. Adjusted operating margins of 29.6% dropped from 29.7% last year.
The company is even willing to look beyond food in the consumer goods sector, be it personal care or health products, too. That's what Kraft Heinz needs to do, Cramer reasoned, because it seems like no one wants to sellout to them.
"We believe that management will take a disciplined approach as it evaluates its next move and not feel rushed to execute a deal this year," Credit Suisse Analyst Robert Moskow wrote on Thursday. "The company's reputation for aggressive cost-cutting combined with the board's insistence on pursuing 'friendly deals' certainly must narrow the options. We struggle to come up with an obvious choice given how entrenched the boards of its CPG (consumer packaged goods) peers tend to be. Mondelez (MDLZ - Get Report) and Colgate (CL - Get Report) probably make the most sense, but who knows?"
Unlike Kraft Heinz, Unilever operates a significant household and personal care portfolio. While Kraft Heinz has long billed itself as a "food and beverage powerhouse," Chief Financial Officer Paulo Basilio said on the call that other consumer goods did not represent a significant departure in its M&A strategy.
"I think at the end of the day that these two segments of the consumer product goods are very similar and that's the reason why you see also many companies operating brands for consumers, sometimes food, sometimes personal care, sometimes healthcare," he said.
Updated from 9:09 ET to include Jim Cramer's comments.
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Editors' pick: Originally published May 4.