If Rip Van Winkle were an investor today, what kind of stock would he buy? Probably one that he could purchase then snooze for 20 years or so without any worries. Rip would want a company with products that were timeless and with the ability to adapt to a changing world. One stock that he would likely love is Disney (NYSE: DIS ) .
Mickey doesn't age
Companies that you could own for two decades need to have products that don't wane in popularity. Disney fits the bill nicely.
Consider its wide range of products -- television networks, theme parks, movies, videos, and more. Disney-owned ESPN is a mainstay in sports broadcasting. What child isn't excited to go to Disneyland or Disney World? What parent isn't excited to take a break from the parks to go relax in a Disney resort?
Disney sells billions of dollars of products based on its characters each year. The company's studios continue to produce blockbusters with mass appeal. Disney videos are in such demand that the company routinely retires its classics to "the vault." It then releases the videos again in a few years for the enjoyment of a new generation of children.
In comparison, theme park operator Six Flags Entertainment (NYSE: SIX ) has a much narrower focus. Six Flags cannot rely on other sources of revenue when park attendance wanes during economic downturns. Its theme parks provide lots of thrills and excitement for millions. But when is the last time you heard the Super Bowl MVP look into the camera and say, "I'm going to Six Flags"?
Mickey Mouse and friends have remained popular for over 80 years. My guess is that they will be in demand as long as the world has kids.
It's a small world after all
Companies whose stock you can own for decades need to change as the world changes. Disney has definitely adjusted to capture growth in international markets beyond simply releasing its movies across the world.
The company owns large stakes in Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, and Shanghai Disney Resort. It receives royalties from the Tokyo Disney Resort. International theme park sales totaled nearly $2.5 billion in 2011.
Looking at the broadcasting side of the business, Disney Channels international subscriber count ranked at the top of all Disney-owned cable networks in 2011. ESPN owns or has distribution agreements with international sports networks in more than 200 countries.
Other entertainment companies are benefiting from international growth as well. For example, media giant Time Warner (NYSE: TWX ) received over 30% of its 2011 revenue from outside the U.S. The company profits from international theatrical releases. Its cable channels such as CNN, Cartoon Network and TNT have also expanded to many countries across the globe.
Sleepy but not grumpy
Even great companies like Disney can stumble. It pays to stay abreast of the business fundamentals and financial results for any stock you buy.
Stocks that you could envision holding for 20 years or more are often great picks. Disney is one of those stocks that you should be able to own for decades. And if you want to take a long nap like Rip Van Winkle, you probably won't wake up feeling grumpy.
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