3 FTSE 100 stocks I'd never sell

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national grid pylons

One of the toughest decisions an investor has to make is when to sell, especially when following a long-term buy-and-hold strategy. But there are some top FTSE 100 shares that I reckon should be seen as 'buy forever' candidates.

Oil will never go out of fashion

Royal Dutch Shell(LSE: RDSB). If you'd held Shell shares for the past five years, into and out of the oil price crisis, you'd have seen the share price drop 6.6% overall to 2,199p.

But Shell has stuck fast to its dividends, which have yielded more than 6% per year over that period. So for every share that you bought five years ago at around 2,335p, you'd have accumulated a total of 610p in dividend cash, and you'd be up 26% over five years.

But what if you'd reinvested your dividend cash in new Shell shares? You'd have actually bought some at higher prices in the early years, so your return would be largely unchanged so far. But as you'd have snapped up some shares down in the depths of the trough, you'd now have 33% more shares than you initially bought -- and all future gains will be 33% higher.

During one of the worst periods in living memory, I reckon that's a cracking result for Shell shares.

Who wants good health? We do!

AstraZeneca(LSE: AZN) has been through a tough patch, hit by the expiry of some key patents and the resulting competition from generics, and has needed to work hard to get its drugs pipeline back up to speed.

And it's been doing exactly that since Pascal Soriot took the helm in 2012 and set about refocusing and streamlining the business. Again we're looking at a company that's had few hard years, but again we still see a pretty decent investment performance.

The price had been flat in the five years leading up to 2012. But since Mr Soriot took over, confidence has returned, and over the past five years we've seen the AstraZeneca share price climb by 61% to £4,607p. On top of that, you'd have earned yourself around 1,035p per share in dividends, to take your total return to nearly 100% -- and more if you'd reinvested the cash in new shares.

With a return to EPS growth forecast for 2018, a forward P/E of 14, and dividend yields approaching 5%, I'd say AstraZeneca is a clear long-term hold.

The insatiable demand for energy

Increasing competition in the retail energy field, coupled with ever-popular comparison sites like uSwitch, are putting pressure on the big energy suppliers -- and some of them are gradually losing customers to the newer upstarts. But whoever you get your electricity and gas from, it's delivered via the same distribution network -- and that means cash for National Grid(LSE: NG), whichever your supplier.

National Grid owns and operates the electricity supply network in England and Wales, and also operates the network in Scotland (though that is owned by others). Much of the UK's gas distribution network is under National Grid's control too, and the firm has significant operations in the US -- around a third of 2016's profits came from America.

The share price has fallen since last summer, to 961p. That drops the P/E to around 15, with dividend yields heading above 4.5%. So not only a 'hold forever' share, but one that's bargain-priced too.

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