Any investor that says they are buying and holding for the long term should be looking for investments that can hold up for a decade or more. As Warren Buffett put it, he buys companies "on the assumption that they could close the market the next day and not reopen it for five years." Finding companies with the competitive advantages to withstand the test of time and grow over these long time frames isn't easy, but they will richly reward investors for their patience.
We asked three of our contributors to highlight a stock worthy of owning over a decade-long time horizon. Here's what they had to say.
An evolving tech giant
Tim Green: Networking hardware giant Cisco Systems (CSCO -0.54%) doesn't get the credit it deserves. The company has a rock-solid balance sheet featuring $37 billion in net cash and a durable competitive advantage in its core switching and routing markets. The tech titan also boasts growth businesses like security and collaboration -- both becoming more software-heavy -- that will drive revenue and earnings higher in the long run.
Cisco is transforming from a seller of boxes into a provider of solutions, and that involves a heavier emphasis on software and services. Cisco's security business is growing at a double-digit pace, registering 16% growth during the latest quarter. And collaboration, which includes everything from video conferencing equipment to chat apps, has become the third-largest segment for the company. Switches and routers still account for around 45% of revenue, but Cisco is working to become less dependent on those slow-growing businesses.
Technology companies, no matter how dominant, can always be disrupted, and that's the biggest risk facing Cisco today. The company is taking steps to ensure that it evolves along with technology, including layoffs announced in August, with the savings being invested in growth areas like security and collaboration. The Cisco of 10 years from now will look different from the Cisco of today. With the stock trading at an attractive price, investors are getting a good deal as they wait for the future to arrive.
This big pharma stock is positioned for long-term growth
George Budwell: Pharma stocks can be troublesome assets to own for long periods of time due to the ever-changing regulatory landscape, combined with their comparatively weak economic moats. Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY 0.31%), however, stands apart from the crowd as a result of its breakthrough cancer immunotherapy drug Opdivo. The long and short of it is that Opdivo has rapidly emerged as the top checkpoint inhibitor across multiple cancers and lines of therapy. And this favorable situation should persist for the long haul based on the drug's broad clinical program that includes numerous high-value indications, such as non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and acute myeloid leukemia, among many others.
The big picture issue to keep in mind is that Opdivo has a real shot at eventually becoming the world's top-selling drug, and perhaps the best-selling drug of all time. Now, Opdivo's growth story did take a big hit last August after it failed to meet its primary endpoint as a frontline monotherapy in NSCLC in the late-stage study known as CheckMate -026. In fact, some analysts think this failure knocked nearly $4 billion in peak sales off the table.
The truth, though, is more complicated. If Opdivo can hit the mark in the front-line setting for NSCLC as part of a combination therapy, after all, a sizable chunk of this market opportunity should come back into play. As it stands right now, Bristol's ongoing CheckMate 227 study, exploring the potential of the combination of Opdivo and Yervoy in front-line NSCLC, should produce top-line data in the first quarter of 2018. While this key data readout is certainly important to Bristol's overall value proposition, the fact remains that this company already has a solid footprint in the red hot immuno-oncology space, setting it up for sustainable, long-term growth.
A stable base with a big growth lever to pull
Tyler Crowe: One company that looks compelling as a decade-long investment is W.W. Grainger (GWW -0.18%). It's not a consumer-facing company, so it may not sound familiar. It is, however, one of the largest suppliers of maintenance, repair, and operations equipment to businesses, offering products ranging from safety and janitorial equipment to power tools and motors. This wide range of supplies makes Granger a one-stop-shop for businesses and makes the procurement process that much easier.
Many of the products it supplies are essential for day-to-day operations and so the business isn't something that is going to be disrupted by technology anytime soon. Perhaps the largest fear would be if some online platform were to take Grainger's customers, but the company is getting out ahead of this by introducing their own online offerings that are specifically designed to go after small and medium-sized businesses. These business sizes have been harder for Granger to capture in the past, but its online platforms have proven to be incredibly effective thus far.
What is even more impressive about Grainger is that it has taken what would normally be a lower-margin business and turned it into a high-return machine that has produced better-than-20% returns on equity for close to eight years straight. The company's 2.2% dividend yield might not wow anyone, but it has grown more than 300% over the past decade. This all suggests that Granger looks to be the kind of stock you want to own over the long haul.