Investors love blue-chip stocks for their safety and stability. Ideally, they provide strong dividends from well-known firms with strong business models that fare well in market downturns.
However, some companies are relying more on past results to hold onto blue-chip status than anything they are doing today. With these blue-chip stocks to avoid or sell, their best days are long since behind them.
It may seem harsh to make a sell call on these declining stocks. But even for venerable firms, at some point, we must acknowledge that these struggling blue-chip stocks just aren’t the quality investments that they used to be in bygone days.
AT&T (NYSE:T) used to be one of the most respected blue-chip stocks in America. For decades, it was the dominant American telecom company. And it gave investors a large stable dividend along with growing earnings.
Around the turn of the century, however, AT&T lost its way. It has struggled to adopt its business to the digital age. As profits from land-based telephone lines have disappeared, the company hasn’t been able to profitably modernize its operations.
Nowadays, AT&T seems to be stuck on a treadmill, plowing tens of billions of dollars into improving its mobile network and making massive new acquisitions. Unfortunately, these investments have often gone astray. The disastrous Time Warner merger, in particular, loaded the company up with debt; at one point AT&T was the world’s single most indebted company. Even after recent efforts to pay down debt, it still has a stunning $136 billion of long-term debt.
AT&T slashed its dividend in 2022, with the aim of reinvesting more in the business. How’s that going? Profits are falling short of expectations once again. Meanwhile, analysts are already starting to wonder if yet another dividend cut may eventually come about.
AT&T stock was trading at $30/share way back in 1998. 25 years later, it now sells for just half of that price. After a quarter century of futility, there is little reason to keep giving AT&T the benefit of the doubt.
Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD)
Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE:BUD) may be the king of beer. But it hasn’t been treating shareholders like royalty for a long time now.
The latest issue is that the company saw its beer sales fall following controversial advertising which led to a boycott. Bud Light sales plunged more than 20% following the scandal and remain down sharply heading into the key summer months.
That said, Anheuser-Busch’s troubles run far beyond a marketing misstep. The company’s owners loaded it up with excessive debt in the 2010s as part of its aggressive play to consolidate the brewing industry. However, the promised synergies never materialized as planned, leaving it drowning in massive interest payments.
In 2022, the company earned $58 billion of revenues, which was only up fractionally from the $55 billion it brought in way back in 2017. Meanwhile, rising costs meant that the company’s profits from those sales dropped sharply. Anheuser-Busch was having huge structural issues long before the most recent marketing concerns cropped up, and investors should not view dips as buying opportunities for BUD stock.
International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF)
International Flavors & Fragrances (NYSE:IFF) traces its corporate history back to Polak & Schwarz, which was founded in 1889 to commercialize flavors and spices. A 1958 merger got the company heavily into fragrances as well.
While the company has a venerable history, its recent dealings have been far less inspiring. To that point, IFF stock was trading at $75 per share in June of 2013. Fast forward ten years to today and IFF stock is once again trading at $75/share. That includes a sharp decline over the past year as its profitability has fallen short of expectations.
More broadly, International Flavors & Fragrances has not figured out how to keep growing profitably. Rather, it made a massive $6.4 billion deal to buy Frutarom which rapidly ran into troubles. Key employees and customers left and promised synergies fell far short. In addition, the company got caught up in a bribery scandal involving alleged improper payments in Russia and Ukraine.
International Flavors & Fragrances saw its profits per share peak way back in 2015. The company’s return on invested capital peaked at 17% back in 2014 and has fallen every single year since then; it hit 1% in 2021 and fell into outright negative territory last year. This all leaves a bitter taste for the company’s long-term investors.
On the date of publication, Ian Bezek did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.