Contrary to what some people say, I believe there are stocks that you can hold forever. The term “forever” might mean different things to different people. To me, it means at least 30 years, and probably much longer.
These are companies that, unless something changes drastically, always will deliver. The reason they deliver is that they have done so for a very long time and/or they sell products that are totally essential to the human experience.
Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.B, BRK.A) is one such company. There are many aspects of Berkshire that elevate it to the Never Sell category, including Warren Buffett’s stewardship. The company also has a decades-long history of consistency in operations, cash flow and simple success. However, I would actually point to the fact that its primary business is insurance, and that it has done such a great job of underwriting that I consider it to be the premier insurer in the nation.
Berkshire also has the broadest possible exposure to consumers with a perfect midlevel brand: the auto insurer Geico. That midlevel appeal is fundamental to the companies Berkshire has purchased over the years. So many of them speak to, and are used by, a massive cross-section of Middle America.
Berkshire doesn’t buy businesses that play in niches. It buys businesses with broad appeal. Berkshire also is so massive, and has so much capital at its disposal, that it is able to make outrageously profitable investments when times are tough — such as its purchase in 2008 of preferred stock in Goldman Sachs. Of course, I’d suggest you purchase the B-class shares of Berkshire, unless you can pony up some $100,000 for the A-class shares.
Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) is the one and only stock to own in the chip sector, as far as I’m concerned. Intel is a de facto global monopoly. No other company comes close.
Yes, I know it isn’t technically a monopoly. There are Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE:AMD) and Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA), but by and large Intel essentially owns this product and controls this market. It has 100,000 employees, generates $52 billion in revenue and has gross margins of 62% — far outpacing the margins of AMD (45%) and Nvidia (49%). Intel has a vastly more efficient business, too, as represented by its operating margins of 20%, versus 6.5% and 15% for AMD and Nvidia, respectively. It sits on more than $9 billion in cash and pays a 3.4% dividend. Nothing will replace Intel.
National Grid (NYSE:NGG). National what? This is one of those classic, overlooked companies — despite the fact it has a $36 billion market cap. The company owns and operates regulated electricity and gas infrastructure in the United Kingdom and the United States. The key word is “regulated,” which means its rates are effectively locked in for the long term. And those rates generate net margins of 15% and returns on equity of 32.5%.
These are great numbers — it’s not easy to find a company that nets 15 cents on every dollar of revenue. Furthermore, it pays a fantastic dividend of 7.5% — a dividend that has been increasing every year since 1993. It has billions of dollars of cash in the bank, and energy is going to be an ongoing necessity for a very long time.
There are many other companies to never sell, of course, but these three are a bit more diverse than you might expect. The trick is not to always lock yourself into familiar names.
As of this writing, Lawrence Meyers did not own a position in any of the aforementioned stocks.