At The Motley Fool, we're all about long-term investing. We love stocks that have the potential to create value through growth or dividends years and decades into the future.
We asked three of our investors which companies are built to last for the very, very long term -- 50 years -- and ExxonMobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM), Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)(NASDAQ:GOOGL), and NVR, Inc. (NYSE:NVR) were at the top of the list.
ExxonMobil could be out of this world
Rich Smith (ExxonMobil): As I specialize in space investing, I spend a lot of time thinking (way) outside the box. So when I tell you that I think ExxonMobil is a stock worth considering as an investment for the next 50 years, I hope you'll bear with me for a moment.
Some investors these days may shy away from ExxonMobil over fears that an "oil peak" will deprive Exxon of black gold to drill for -- or that an "oil demand peak" will deprive it of customers to sell oil to. And I admit that, over a 50-year period, either of those things might happen. But it's important to also think about what else might change over the next five decades. When I do that, two words come to mind: space mining.
There's been a lot of talk lately about mining the Moon for helium, for example, and digging deep into Mars in search of buried water reserves. Farther down the road, expeditions to the Jovian moons of Europa or Ganymede might require mining deep below the moons' icy surfaces, through subsurface oceans and into the seafloor below.
Now, what company comes to mind when you think of digging in icy terrain and drilling beneath oceans? To me, the first name that pops is Siberian and deep-sea driller ExxonMobil. That's why I have a strong suspicion that even if Earth's oil resources are ultimately tapped out (or rendered obsolete by electric cars), there's a future for ExxonMobil stock -- out there among the stars.
Innovation that's built to last
Travis Hoium (Alphabet): The next 50 years will likely see even more disruption than the last 50 years, so I want to own companies that have disruptive innovation built into their DNA. Alphabet is one of the most innovative companies in the world, pushing to profoundly change everything from transportation to healthcare.
Alphabet's core is the Google search and advertising business that's around us every day. Google touches nearly every corner of the internet and even powers the smartphones hundreds of millions of people have in their pockets. And its base is an incredibly profitable free cash flow machine:
On top of the steady moneymaking business is a company that invests in nearly every revolutionary technology being developed today. Waymo is developing self-driving vehicles, Nest is making smart thermostats and security systems, Google Fiber and Project Loon are bringing high-speed internet to the world, and Google's investment arms have stakes in companies like Uber, Airbnb, and Slack. Not all of these bets will pay off, but the ones that do could drive the next generation of growth for Alphabet.
In a fairly short period of time as a public company (a little over a decade), Alphabet has shown the ability to grow its core business and adapt to new technologies that will shape the world for decades to come. Few companies are prepared for the next phase of transformative innovation like Alphabet is. No matter what the world looks like in 50 years, I bet Alphabet will play a big role in the technology we use every day.
Watch this stock boom
Dan Caplinger (NVR): The population of the U.S. continues to rise, and demand for housing remains strong. NVR is just one of many homebuilders in the stock market, but the company uses an unusual business model that has given it the ability to weather difficulties in the industry that other homebuilders have suffered from more extensively.
NVR's competitive edge comes largely from the way it secures land for development. Many developers choose to buy land outright well in advance of building homes on it; that not only requires them to put up a lot of money up front but also leaves them exposed to downturns in the real estate market. Instead, NVR obtains options to purchase land at a future date, exercising its rights on a lot-by-lot basis, in many instances just before making a sale. The strategy does require NVR to spend extra money to secure the options to purchase, but if something happens with the real estate market, the company can simply walk away without exercising the option, limiting its losses to the amount it paid for the option.
In the eight years since the financial crisis, NVR has seen its profits quadruple, and investors are excited about the future. Whether the housing market thrives or slides, NVR is in one of the best positions possible to deliver strong returns to its shareholders.