Old Dogs. New Tricks.
Jon is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
My Grandpa's a good guy. He's in his 80s, but he still gets out to go skiing. Did I mention he skis in the French Alps and Argentina? He still works a part-time job. He doesn't need money, but he enjoys staying busy. He hangs out with his friends in the bowling league once a week. He never misses church choir practice. These things aren't hard for him, he's been doing them his whole life.
When I first showed him a flash drive, he told me he didn't believe in all that hocus pocus. We spent 10 years as a family trying to persuade him to buy a digital camera. Email is still a lost cause. I am also very confident that he will never read this article unless I print it out for him, and even then he may not read it because it was made from one of those new-fangled printing machines...
It's hard to teach an old dog new tricks isn't it? No matter how capable the dog is in the tricks he already knows, the prospect of the new is elusive. The older we get the less likely we are to be able to adapt to newness and the pace of change. With these thoughts in mind, I wanted to highlight three companies that are so old they should either be dead, or in an assisted living environment, but yet they are still kicking with the youth and energy of a 16 year old guy behind the wheel of his friend's dad's mustang.
Corning (NYSE: GLW) started out 160 years ago under the name Corning Glass Works (did you ever wonder why their ticker was GLW?) They have been able to provide solutions and adapt this entire time. They manufactured the glass for Edison's light bulb. They were the ones who helped revolutionize telescopes in the '30s. They changed the way windshields work in '60s. But they aren't just useful for industrial applications, they are also useful in the kitchen with their Corelle dinnerware. The company has been able to stay alive for a long time, and stay healthy even into its ancient age.
They may be 160 years old, but they are still going strong. They have been able to stay up with the times and be a major player in the smart phone/tablet market revolution with the invention of their gorilla glass. Now, a few years after the invention of gorilla glass, they are at it again with gorilla glass 2. The main thing about the new version is it's 20% thinner, which also means lighter. In a world where everything has to be lighter, stronger, sleeker, faster...Corning is staying in the game for the foreseeable future.
Consolidated Edison (NYSE: ED) is a company that can trace its roots back to 1823 to the New York Gas Light Company, and has the honor of being the longest listed stock on the NYSE (although obviously there has been a name change). As you may deduce, the Edison part of the company was founded by Thomas Edison some time later. It wouldn't be until more modern times (1882) that Edison's company would come on the scene. These guys were the shakers and the movers of the early electricity revolution, and would later merge with the New York Gas Light Company.
Consolidated Edison isn't content with retiring and sailing off into the sunset, even though they are 189 years old. No, they are actually expanding into the state of California for the first time in their history with a recent purchase of two solar power plants. They'll be selling the power produced from these plants to another company. You see, the California Government is requiring that power companies get 33% of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. While this particular company is sitting on its heels, Edison is going on the offensive to fill a void and grow business. Not bad for an old man.
The oldest current member of the Dow is none other than ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM). Started in 1911, after the forced breakup of Rockefeller's company, they have been going strong for over 100 years. Coincidently, in 1911, it was the first time that gas output beat kerosene output in history. Exxon Mobile has been at the forefront of the gas industry the entire time, and until last year, enjoyed the title of world's largest company.
But don't think this is a company stuck in its old crude oil ways. They see the real future as being in natural gas. They believe that the natural gas demand will increase by 60% by the year 2040, and they want to be right at the front of the pack. Natural gas is being tapped like never before thanks to new technologies that have allowed them to exploit oil sands, shale, and deep water exploration and drilling. Crude oil won't be the death of this company; they are leading the way in changes in energy as we know it.
What a great quality to have: adaptation. All three of these companies have it, which has allowed them longevity, profitability, and strength to stay leaders in their fields. While past results are never a guarantee for future success, with track records like these, how could you ignore them? It seems an old dog can learn new tricks.
thequast has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Corning and ExxonMobil. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Corning. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.If you have questions about this post or the Fool’s blog network, click here for information.