Five long-term shares for your Isa

Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffet once famously said: 'When we own portions of outstanding businesses with outstanding managements, our favourite holding period is forever.'

It's a ringing endorsement of the buy-and-hold approach to share investment. Buy-and-hold investors aim to ignore day-to-day, and even month-to-month, market fluctuations, in favour of a high-conviction approach.

For investors with medium tolerance towards risk, a five-year plus time frame is not unusual for a buy-and-hold strategy. Higher-risk investors might reduce their holding period to three years, but this is still a world away from speculative trading.

Individual savings accounts are the perfect place to hold longer-term investments, because investors can currently place up to £11,520 worth of shares per year (in 2013/14) in the wrapper to protect them from capital gains tax.

Higher-rate and top-rate tax-payers also avoid paying additional income tax on dividends after the 10 per cent 'tax credit' is paid at source.

Identifying companies with a solid, or even better, unique business model is the idea behind long-term investment. You're looking for something that puts them in a market sweet spot, or has given them a sizeable market share; something that is hard to copy.

These 'outstanding' businesses should be ones that could survive disruption. A good example of this is companies that were unaffected by the arrival and growth in popularity of the internet.

For Buffett, the latest firm to fulfil such criteria was Heinz, which his company bought for $28 billion (£17 billion) in February last year. There are not many investors who have the capability to buy a company with the resilience and heritage of Heinz outright, but thankfully there are plenty of listed firms attractive enough to whet a buy-and-hold devotee's appetite.

Below, a range of fund managers share the stocks they think fit the bill. Despite a recent profit warning, Stuart Mitchell, manager of the SWMC European Fund, views Royal Dutch Shell as an attractive company to hold.

'We recently purchased a new position in Shell as we had been intrigued by the group for some time. Its shares appear to be trading at a significant discount to restated net asset value and it also seems that up to 30 per cent of the business is tied up in unproductive assets.'

Mitchell thinks the appointment of Ben van Beurden as chief executive will herald the transformation the oil giant, with van Beurden also signalling a move to a more shareholder-friendly business.

'As head of chemicals at Shell, he successfully managed to both reduce capital expenditure and increase profitability in his division,' Mitchell says. 'Finally, the recent news that the company has decided not to pursue the gas-to-liquids plant in Louisiana is also encouraging.'

Resources options

Resources companies have been largely shunned by investors in recent years, as fears of a Chinese slowdown have weighed on commodity prices. This is one of the reasons Julian Chillingworth, chief investment officer at Rathbones, thinks now is a good time to get back into the sector.

His Isa picks are two FTSE-100 listed miners Rio Tinto and BG Group. 'Rio has been in the doldrums of late after being a glamour stock for a few years. It has a decent yield (approaching 4 per cent) and now is a good entry point, with the industry in consolidation and looking to cut costs.'

Sam Walsh, Rio's chief executive, is also relatively new and has begun an extensive transformation programme, reducing capital expenditure significantly and working hard to get shareholders on side.

Most importantly, Rio Tinto has valuable assets in strong geographical areas such as Australia, rather than in politically unstable parts of the globe, as is the case with some of its peers.

Chillingworth says only investors who believe the world economy is returning to sustainable growth should buy and hold resources companies though, because their performance is always going to be fairly dependent on it.

BG Group's assets are similarly world class: 'It is not a major, but has a very strong position in Brazilian oil discoveries, which amount to billion-barrel flows. The stock has slipped back a bit because people have been worried about a slowdown, but there is a lot to be gained out of these particular deposits,' Chillingworth says.

Moving away from commodity-based companies, Jupiter's Alastair Gunn, manager of the Jupiter High Income fund, says investors looking to select buy-and-hold shares should keep in mind that the market has just had 'one hell of a year'. In light of this, he has recently made a couple of investment decisions geared towards the housing recovery in the UK - a theme he thinks will reap gains going forward.

Housing recovery

One of these, Galliford Try, has two subsidiaries involved in construction and house building. 'There is a lot of stimulus in the housing market at the moment and this is unlikely to be removed before the general election and before the economy truly gets going again,' Gunn explains.

Companies in this sector also satisfy a key tenet of Gunn's strategy, which is to hunt for firms with pricing power. He says constrained supply in the housing market provides this, and believes it will take time to rectify because the planning system in the UK is long-winded.

Elsewhere in the market, Gunn says newly listed Esure is due a significant rerating. Immediately after its initial public offering in March last year, Esure issued a profit warning, not about its immediate profits but about its numbers going forward.

This was linked to government legislation trying to stop bogus whiplash claims pushing up the cost of insurance for everybody. The insurance sector reacted by cutting premiums by as much as 9 per cent, and now a big chunk of the sector is lossmaking, Gunn explains.

He predicts that this 'period of pain' will last most of this year, but says when rates start ticking back up again Esure is best placed to benefit. As a business launched in the internet era, Esure has no legacy issues from the pre-internet days.

Most of its business comes through comparison websites and it has lean operating costs. It is attractively valued on a price/earnings ratio of 10 [as at mid-January], has a strong balance sheet and also a policy of paying out half its earnings to shareholders - all characteristics which make it attractive to a buy-and-hold strategy.

Lastly, companies listed on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) could be a consideration. Under new rules introduced in August 2013 AIM shares can now be included in stocks and shares Isas and since they tend to be further up the risk spectrum, a longer-term buy-and-hold strategy is probably wise.

Going international

Foreign shares can also be sheltered from tax within an Isa as long as they are listed on a recognised stock exchange (a list of which can be found on the HM Revenue & Customs website). However, it is important to look at the whole picture before investing directly in international shares.

Garry White, chief investment commentator at Charles Stanley, warns investing directly in international shares can be a minefield. Currency exchange rates are the main consideration.

He says the best time to invest in US shares would be when you thought sterling was due to weaken against the dollar. As the pound weakened, the value of your holdings and dividends in dollar terms would increase.

The flip side of this is that if the pound strengthens (as it has been doing recently) the value of your US holdings would decrease before you even took into account the performance of the individual shares.

Essentially, investors have to make two decisions: one on the prospects of the company and one on the likely strength or weakness of the currency relative to sterling. For this reason, most investors would be happier accessing international equities through funds run by seasoned fund managers. These can often be bought in currency-hedged share classes too.

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