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Only 12 of the original 100 largest US companies of 1917 have lasted a century under the same name. The survivors—GE, AT&T, Ford and Dupont—have defined American industry and innovation.
Despite the high attrition rate, anyone smart and wealthy enough to have invested $1,000 in each of the top 100 public companies in 1917 would now have a portfolio worth $26.6 million—based on price appreciation alone. The 5.8 percent compounded annual return slightly exceeds that of the 30 stocks of Dow Jones Industrial average. And if you were to add in dividends accrued, the result would likely be 10 percent annually, or as much as $1 billion. The inflation rate over the last 100 years averaged 3 percent.
The star of the original list is Procter & Gamble. An initial investment of $1,000 would have appreciated in value to $1.6 million. (Including dividends, the amount would be at least $50 million.)
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(This story appears in the 10 November, 2017 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)