Are The Glory Days Over For ARM Holdings plc, Diageo plc & Royal Dutch Shell Plc?

Times change, fortunes shift, grandeur fades. Even the most heroic stocks may falter and fall. Can these three FTSE 100 heroes recapture their former glories?

ARM and a leg

For me, microchip maker Arm Holdings (LON: ARM) will always be the one that got away. I sold in a fit of impatience some years ago just before it embarked on a four-bagging run. That kind of return can’t last forever however, and performance has been patchy for some time. The stock is down 15% over the last year and this is no short-term stumble. If you had bought three years ago, you would be up just 9%.

Despite that, ARM Holdings still trades at a hefty 41 times earnings. This kind of valuation demands blistering performance that could prove quite a challenge for what’s now a big player with a market cap of £14.23bn. ARM Holdings is no tech upstart.

This does give ARM Holdings one big advantage. Last year it spent a hefty £278m on research and development, which not only helps develop new applications but also builds high barriers to entry. It’s much cheaper to license a processor design from ARM Holdings than develop one yourself. Net cash of £950m should help it sustain its leading position. Last year, it shipped a whopping 4bn ARM-based chips, up 16% year-on-year, and posted a 14% rise in dollar group revenues. As mobile technology grows the future still looks bright, although not bright enough to produce a repeat of that four-bagging run.

Lost spirit

I’ve fonder memories of holding spirits giant Diageo (LSE: DGE), a stock that almost doubled my money under acquisition-hungry Paul Walsh before I exited at exactly the right time. Recent performance has been weak as water, returning just 6% over five years. Investors would have been hoping for stronger stuff. Diageo was a play on emerging markets but the economic slowdown and currency weakness have forced once-aspirational drinkers to revert to cheaper local brands.

The last half of 2015 saw organic net sales growth of just 1.8%, but adverse currency movements and sales of non-core assets knocked both net sales and operating profits. Diageo carries a hefty valuation of 21.17 times earnings, which looks pricey given current slow growth prospects. It should benefit from an emerging markets recovery (whenever that comes) but the glory days are over for now.

Dutch courage

I’m also glad I sold oil giant Royal Dutch Shell (LSE: RDSB) shortly before the oil price crash (thanks to luck rather than judgement, I must admit). The oil price crash turned the company from hero to zero but it’s fighting back with its share price up 17% in the last three months as oil creeps over $41 a barrel. Happily, the stock still looks cheap by conventional metrics, trading at just 8.33 times earnings. The yield is now a death-or-glory 7.35%, but the higher oil climbs, the more likely it is that this payout will live to fight another day.

At some point oil will recover and Shell gives you the chance to lock into a glorious long-term income stream from a company that takes its dividend seriously. It’s a gamble, naturally, but you have to show some guts if you want to grab some glory.

While these stocks have a glorious past, here's one that may have a thrilling future.

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Harvey Jones has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended ARM Holdings, Diageo, and Royal Dutch Shell B. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.