What companies might be the next Google, Microsoft, Apple, or Walmart?
If you had a crystal ball and you could see twenty or thirty-plus years into the future, what investments would you buy now to hold forever - for you, for your children, grandchildren, and even your grandchildren's children?
ADOPT A LONG TERM OUTLOOK
Many people would immediately say that gold or perhaps oil (or other commodities) will be the best long-term growth stories going forward into the 21st century. Others believe that after our global recession, 'buy and hold' as a strategy is dead and that you must become a short-term trader again, or stay out of the markets altogether. If you look at stock charts online [Yahoo finance, Google finance, MSN] you will see that investors were paid well to hold such stocks as Apple (AAPL), Caterpillar (CAT), even Disney (DIS) for the last few years. Applying wisdom from Warren Buffett, imagine that you are buying the entire company each time you invest in even one share!
As we look for speculative ideas for our long-term investing we must imagine trends in our country, our world, and society that can continue to develop for decades. In recent years, the personal computer, the internet, cell phones, smart phones, solar, currencies (forex), commodities (like gold, silver, and copper), and others have been among those trends.
IDEAS, CONTENT, AND INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
To begin, we can investigate ideas like content and intellectual property stocks. It's one thing to have various 'delivery' companies like Verizon (VZ), Comcast (CMCSA), Google's YouTube (GOOG), Netflix (NFLX), Apple (AAPL), Hulu, and others but where does the real content come from? Will Facebook orLinkedIN (LNKD) create content? We must find the Disney (DIS), Marvel Comics, NBC Universal, Lionsgate Films, and CBS Corp-style (CBS) companies that have the products that end-users will stream, download, or buy. In this space, it's also interesting to consider Dolby Labs (DLB) for their sonic technology, and IMAX (IMAX) theaters [3D], but again these are essentially delivery-related companies.
Americans will shop, regardless of recessionary fears, and I like Amazon (AMZN) (with their Kindle, streaming ventures (music/movies), and the go to place on the web for thousands of items like popular Hello Kitty handbags and more), Apple (AAPL) (for its popular stores around the globe), and Target (TGT) for great growth into groceries, and promotions and lines like the recent Italian Missoni for Target collection.
POWER, ENERGY, AND GREEN TECHNOLOGY
In newer trends, perhaps solar-power and wind-power will escalate into the growth energy source of the coming decades that trumps oil, coal, and natural gas. If so, choosing a leading company in this field is smart, but can be daunting because the industry could change very quickly. First Solar (FSLR) is interesting, as is GT Solar (SOLR), Real Goods Solar (RSOL) but it may come down to consolidation in the marketplace where the scale of a Siemens (SI) or a General Electric (GE) are the only ones able to make the technology and power delivery viable. Utilities like Southern Company (SO), Consolidated Edison (ED) and others might fare well here. In this space, it is also possible that A123 Systems (AONE), a battery maker, and Tesla Motors (TSLA), electric cars, are solid, long-term investments.
GLOBAL TRENDS - WATER, INFRASTRUCTURE, WIRELESS
Globally, a rising middle class in India and China has implications on food, water, technology, and infrastructure in ways that inspire a number of investment ideas. Growth in South America and Africa, and changes in countries with great natural resources will lead to many other trends. Earth-moving companies like Caterpillar (CAT) could fare well for decades, as well as wireless companies throughout Asia like China Mobile (CHL), Turkcell (TKC), and SK Telecom (SKM). I am also intrigued by American Tower (AMT) for its global reach and possible reorganization into a REIT (real estate investment trust).
If you're not a short-term trader and you choose to "buy and hold" these companies, and/or other companies based on these trends, seek those with dividends (even modest ones), growth stories, and solid management. Buy over time in small increments (some experts suggest buying in thirds), keeping an eye on transaction costs, even with a discount or online broker. Do your own research, create and follow your own ideas, and consult your own advisors, and investment professionals before committing any risk capital.