actions that kept the course in the new Elizabethan era
Queen Elizabeth II is probably Britain’s richest woman, but does not feature in the top 20 richest women in the world.
Still, she’s not short of a bob or two and is said to have a personal investment portfolio that’s likely done well since she became monarch on June 2, 1952.
What companies could possibly have been in his portfolio throughout his reign?
This is a difficult question to answer, in part because although there are many companies today that existed in 1952, not all of them would have been publicly traded back then.
Former companies that would not have been in the 1952 portfolio
Some of the long-running businesses that went public after Queen Elizabeth’s accession to the throne include:
So technically none of these pillars would be in QEII’s crowning portfolio.
Then there are stocks that existed in 1952 that are still available in one form or another. This list would include: Allied Breweries, Grand Metropolitan and Guinness, parts of which ended up in Diageo PLC (LSE: DGE); Glaxo and Beecham (GSK PLC), Midland Bank (HBSC Holdings PLC); National Provincial Bank (NatWest Bank PLC); Patons & Baldwins (Coats PLC), Bass (Intercontinental Hotels Group PLC); Reckitt & Colman (Reckitt Benckiser PLC); Reed International (RELX PLC).
Others have just changed names, for example The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (BP PLC), Willson Lathes (Meggitt Holdings PLC); J Hepworth & Son (Next PLC).
Other pillars have fallen into public property, come out of it, and in some cases returned to it; try to unravel the history of Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC (LSE:RR.) or British Aerospace one day.
The Sustainable Dozen
Beyond these, here is a selection of household names from 1952 that are still major stock market entities today:
Alliance Trust PLC (LSE: ATST), Balfour Beatty plc (LSE: BBY), British American Tobacco PLC (LSE: BATS), British Land PLC, Coats Group PLC (LSE: COA), Imperial Brands PLC (LSE: IMB), Land Securities PLC, Lloyds Banking Group PLC (LSE: LLOY), Marks & Spencer Group PLC, Tate Lyle, Tesco PLC and Unilever PLC (LSE: ULVR).
Alfred Herbert, Associated Portland Cement, Boots, Bowater, Cadbury Schweppes, Cavenham Foods, Courtaulds, Distillers, Dunlop, EMI, GEC, Guest, Keen Nettlefold (GKN), Harrods, Imperial Chemical Industries, Lancashire Cotton, Leyland Motors, London Brick, Murex, Morris Motors, Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&), Pinchin Johnson, Spillers, Swan Hunter, Vickers, Watney Combe & Reid, William Cory, Woolworth.
Tom Stevenson, the chief investment officer for personal investments at Fidelity International, has compiled his own “Platinum Investments” list, including ten stocks that have “stood the test of time with the Queen”.
His list consists of:
- Royal Mail – founded in 1516
- WH Smith – founded in 1792
- Burberry – founded in 1856
- Sainsbury’s – founded in 1869
- Marks & Spencer – founded in 1884
- Tate & Lyle – founded in 1885
- Rolls Royce – founded in 1904
- Aston Martin – founded in 1913
- Unilever – founded in 1927
- Greggs – founded 1939 / first store opened 1951
“The first thing that jumps out at you is that almost all of these companies have powerful brand names. This partly reflects the time they’ve been a part of our lives, but it also suggests that these are companies we’ve developed a real affinity with. It’s hard to imagine them not being there,” Stevenson said.
I don’t know about you, but the first thing that jumped out at me was the inclusion of Aston Martin in the list – a disastrous stock market investment if ever there was one, but let Tom make his case.
“The second theme is the defensiveness of their businesses. They make or sell things we can’t live without. No wonder three in ten are food retailers. Regardless of the state of the economy, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer and Greggs are well protected against the ups and downs of the business cycle,” Stevenson said.
Yes, Tom, but what about Aston Martin?
“The rich are different,” they say. For them, the ebb and flow of the economy is neither here nor there, so it’s no surprise that luxury goods have been another key to corporate longevity. Burberry’s iconic trench coats are always in style and who wouldn’t want to emulate that other great British survivor, James Bond, in his Aston Martin car? Stevenson asks rhetorically.
Regarding Aston Martin, I think I would prefer another type of bond: the premium bond.
Still, Stevenson is right about the enduring appeal of a brand name, which makes Royal Mail PLC’s (LSE:RMG) infamously abortive switch to the meaningless Consignia name a few years ago all the more baffling.
“Perhaps the oldest company on our list is the one most at risk from the changes that swept through the final years of the Second Elizabethan Age. Royal Mail now delivers more parcels than letters, as hardly any of us no longer written, but just about all of us are doing an increasing proportion of our shopping online,” says Stevenson.
That may be the case, but it’s fair to say that Royal Mail is the only company the Queen has been able to put her stamp on.