The tech sector lost its luster this year as rising interest rates sparked a rotation toward more conservative investments. However, shunning all tech stocks is generally a bad idea, since many of those beaten-down names could rebound to fresh highs after the macroeconomic outlook improves.
Instead of blindly selling all of your tech stocks, you should simply stick with well-run blue-chip companies, which generate stable growth and plenty of cash while trading at reasonable valuations. These three evergreen plays fit the bill: Accenture (ACN 0.23%), Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSM 0.92%) (also known as TSMC), and Alphabet (GOOG -1.60%) (GOOGL -1.61%), the parent company of Google. Let's find out a bit more about each and how they can set you up for life.
Accenture is one of the world's largest IT service companies. Its IT professionals, who are based in 50 countries, provide a wide range of services to approximately 7,000 clients across 120 countries. Most of those clients are Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies.
Between 2016 and 2021, Accenture's annual revenue rose at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9% as its earnings per share (EPS) grew at a CAGR of 7.3%. That steady growth enabled it to more than double its annual free cash flow (FCF) from $4.1 billion in 2016 to $8.4 billion in 2021.
Last year, it returned $5.9 billion of that total back to its investors through $3.7 billion in buybacks and $2.2 billion in dividends. It expects to return "at least" $6.3 billion of its FCF of $7.7 billion to $8.2 billion to its investors this year.
However, Accenture also plans to ramp up its investments in its higher-growth cloud, interactive, industry X (digital transformation), and security business segments. It expects these "strategic growth priorities" to lock in more customers, widen its moat against other IT service providers, and help it keep pace with the digital transformations of larger companies.
Accenture might initially seem like a dull investment, but it's generated an impressive total return of 150% over the past five years. It trades at a reasonable 24 times forward earnings, it pays a decent forward dividend yield of 1.4%, and its core business should continue growing for years to come.
TSMC is the world's largest contract chipmaker. It manufactures chips for fabless chipmakers like Advanced Micro Devices, Apple, and Qualcomm. It also remains ahead of its two closest rivals, Samsung and Intel (INTC 1.60%), in the "process race" to create smaller and denser chips. TSMC established that lead by adopting ASML's extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography systems, which are used to etch the world's smallest chips, before either rival.
That pricy upgrade has paid off. Between 2016 and 2021, TSMC's annual revenue grew at a CAGR of 10.9% in New Taiwan dollar (NTD) terms and 14.1% in U.S. dollars. Its earnings per American depositary receipt grew at a CAGR of 15.6%.
Its annual operating cash flow also more than doubled from $16.8 billion to $39.8 billion, even as it ramped up its spending on new plants and smaller nodes.
TSMC plans to maintain its process lead by boosting its capital expenditures from $28 billion in 2021 to between $40 billion and $44 billion in 2022, which is far beyond Intel or Samsung's spending capabilities. Intel is pleading for government subsidies in the U.S. and Europe to narrow that gap, but it will likely remain at least one chip generation behind TSMC for the foreseeable future.
TSMC's stock has already generated a total return of more than 200% over the past five years, but it still trades at just 16 times forward earnings. That low valuation, along with its projected forward dividend yield of 2.2%, makes it a solid long-term investment.
Alphabet's Google owns the world's leading search engine, its largest streaming video platform (YouTube), its most popular web browser (Chrome), its top email platform (Gmail), and its most widely used mobile operating system (Android).
It also operates the world's third-largest cloud infrastructure platform, Google Cloud, and holds a near duopoly in digital ads with Meta Platform's Facebook in many markets.
That nearly inescapable ecosystem has enabled Alphabet to grow its annual revenue at a CAGR of 23.3% between 2016 and 2021, even as its core advertising business endured a brief slowdown during the pandemic. Its EPS also grew at a CAGR of 32.1%, even though it aggressively expanded its unprofitable cloud business.
It generated a whopping $67 billion in FCF in 2021, and it spent $50 billion of that total on buybacks throughout the year. That left it plenty of cash for fresh investments and acquisitions.
Alphabet's stock has soared nearly 140% over the past five years, but it still trades at just 20 times forward earnings. The stock has been dragged down with the broader tech sector this year, but I believe it remains one of the safest long-term investments on the digital advertising and cloud markets.