Are there some stocks you can buy and literally hold forever, the ideal time frame according to Warren Buffett? Some critics will say one should never be wedded to a stock. However, there are a select few that, assuming the company isn't involved in any fraud, you can and should hold forever.
These are businesses fundamental to mankind. They are wrapped up in the DNA of not just the global economy, but the lives of every single person on the globe. You buy these companies, never sell them, accrue and reinvest their dividends, and pass them on to your kids.
By forever, do I really mean "forever"? Essentially. I mean a 30 to 60 year time horizon, and possibly longer, because no matter what headwinds these companies face, there is nothing they will not overcome.
The world needs oil. It always will need oil. No matter how much the environmental movement screams and shouts, the world will always consume oil, and we will not run out in our lifetime, or the next.
While one could buy a basket of oil service stocks, this exposes you to the fortunes of those particular companies. Some of them may not survive for one reason or another. Owning investments directly tied to the price of oil is far too volatile and more suitable to trading. So I prefer to go to the source: the producers. What better names to have in your portfolio than ConocoPhillps (NYSE:COP), Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM), British Petroleum (NYSE:BP), and Chevron (NYSE:CVX)? All have proven to be fantastic long-term bets for investors. It doesn't matter what the price of oil is over any given period. If you hold big oil producers, you will win over the long haul.
There are only three items to look at for oil stocks in regards to their financials: debt, debt service, and cash flow. As long as cash flow exceeds debt service on a regular basis, and total debt could be paid off by the cash flow over 3 to 5 years, you are in solid shape. All of these companies are so cash-flow-rich, there is nothing to worry about.
Conoco-Phillips had $17 billion in cash flow in 2010, against only $1.2 billion in interest and $27 billion in debt. ExxonMobil generated a whopping $48 billion in cash flow against a tiny $260 million in interest, and $12 billion in debt. Even BP, despite the Gulf spill, generated $13.6 billion in cash flow against $45 billion in debt, and they usually run $27 - $40 billion in annual cash flow. Chevron produced $31 billion in cash flow against only $11 billion in debt. And none of this even mentions the billions of cash these companies have on their balance sheets.
Each stocks also offers steady, growing dividends. BP reinstated its dividend to a 3.8% yield, Chevron pays 3.1%, Conoco yields 3.6%, Exxon pays 2.3%. The compounding of reinvested dividends also helps turbocharge returns over time.
How is this actionable?
If your time horizon is, in fact, 30 years or more, it doesn't matter what price you buy these stocks at today. If you want a stock that is undervalued relative to its peers, then Chevron and Conoco both trade at 4.75x the EV/EBITDA ratio. The only other distinguishing feature might be that BP still has not recovered from the sell-off from the oil spill. There is an argument to be had that it has the most capital gain potential going forward.
Disclosure: Long BP. No plans to initiate any other positions in the next 72 hours.