FTSE turns 40 - these are the stocks that have stood the test of time

The FTSE has turned 40 today - we look at the stocks that still form part of the index and how it has changed

cupcake with the words forty as candles
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The FTSE 100 has hit its 40th birthday milestone and has delivered many happy returns for investors during its lifetime.

The UK’s premier stock market index celebrates turning 40 today ( 3 January 3), with a quarter of its original constituents still making up the blue-chip index.

Like many 40-year-olds, it has seen plenty of ups and downs during its lifetime, such as the dotcom boom and bubble, the financial crisis and more recently the pandemic and cost of living crisis which have all weighed on performance.

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It still contains 26 of its founder members that were included when the index first started, of which 14 still have the same name.

“The FTSE 100 launched on 3 January 1984, to replace the FT-30, and the stock market benchmark’s make up has changed a lot since then,” says Russ Mould, investment director for fund and stockbroking platform AJ Bell.

“Just fourteen founder members are still in the index and still using the very same name, while 12 more are still part of UK plc’s corporate elite, but under a different guise.

“The other 74 have either fallen down through the ranks into the realms of mid- and small- caps, been acquired, been broken up or in three instances gone out of business, as the index has taken on a less domestic and more international flavour.”

The five largest companies in the FTSE 100 - Shell, AstraZeneca, HSBC, Unilever and BP - now represent nearly a third of the entire index. 

How has the FTSE 100 changed?

The index has taken on a less domestic and more international flavour over the past four decades, according to AJ Bell.

Of the 100 firms, just 26 of its founder members are still in the index.

This is split between 14 that even have the same name, although Whitbread, for example, is a different company now after shifting from breweries to becoming a hotel and restaurant group. 

  • Associated British Foods
  • Barclays
  • Barratt Development
  • Land Securities
  • Legal & General
  • Lloyds Bank
  • Marks & Spencer
  • Pearson
  • Sainsbury
  • Smith & Nephew
  • Standard Chartered
  • Tesco
  • Unilever
  • Whitbread

Source: AJ Bell

The other 12 have remained but have since changed name and sometimes corporate structure due to mergers and acquisitions or changes in strategy. 

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Old nameNew nameHeader Cell - Column 2
BAT IndustriesBritish American TobaccoFinancial services business sold, and BAT spun out (1998)
British AerospaceBAE SystemsCreated by merger with defence arm of GEC, which then became Marconi (1999)
British PetroleumBPRow 2 - Cell 2
Commercial UnionAvivaMerged with General Accident (1988); Merged with Norwich Union to create CGU (2000); renamed 2009
GlaxoGSKResult of Glaxo's merger with Wellcome (1995) and also SmithKlineBeecham (2000)
Imperial Imperial BrandsAcquired by Hanson (1985), Imperial Tobacco spun out (1996). Renamed Imperial Brands (2016).
Prudentia Assurance Prudential / M&GSpun off M&G (2019) and Jackson Financial (2021)
Reckitt & Colman Reckitt BenckiserCreated by merger with Benckiser (1999)
Reed International RELXMerged with Elsevier (1992) to create Reed Elsevier. Renamed RELX in 2015.
Rio Tinto-Zinc Rio TintoRow 9 - Cell 2
Royal Bank of ScotlandNatWestRenamed NatWest Group (2020)
Shell Transport & TradingShellMerger between legally separate Shell and Royal Dutch entities (2005). Name changed to Shell and dual structure scrapped in 2021.

Source: AJ Bell 

Another 13 including Beecham and Ladbrokes have been acquired and became part of a current FTSE 100 member. 

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Acquired, part of FTSE 100 firmNew ownerHeader Cell - Column 2
Allied Lyons DiageoMerged with Pedro Domecq (1994). Acquired and broken up by Pernod Ricard, Fortune and Diageo
BeechamGSK Now part of GSK
British Electric Traction Rentokil InitialAcquired by Rentokil (1996) and now part of Rentokil Initial (RTO)
BritoilBP Acquired by BP (1988)
Distillers Diageo Now part of Diageo
General AccidentAviva Part of Aviva
Great Universal Stores Experian, SainsburyGUS broke itself up by demerging Experian and Home Retail in 2006. Home Retail (Argos, Homebase) was acquired by Sainsbury in 2016 for £1.4 billion. Sainsbury sold Homebase to Wesfarmers for £340 million and kept Argos.
Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds Melrose Industries, DowlaisAcquired by Melrose Industries (2018), which then spun off parts of the GKN business as Dowlais in 2023
LadbrokesEntainMerged with Coral (2016). Acquired by GVC (2018), now known as Entain and a FTSE 100 firm.
Midland Bank HSBC Now part of HSBC
National Westminster Bank NatWest Group Now part of NatWest, having been acquired by Royal Bank of Scotland, which became RBS and was then renamed (2020)
Plessey BAE Systems Acquired by GEC and Siemens (1989) and then merged to form BAE Systems (1999)
Wimpey (George) Taylor Wimpey Now part of Taylor Wimpey

Source: AJ Bell

Two more spawned what are now FTSE 100 firms thanks to spin-offs, demergers and break-ups 

Diageo can trace itself back to both Grand Metropolitan and Allied Domecq, while Racal demerged what is now Vodafone.

Another 40 brands such as Boots, Burton, Cable & Wireless and House of Fraser have been acquired and since gone private, while 11 including Cadbury Schweppe and General Electric have broken up and subsequently de-listed.

Five are still quoted but are members of a different UK index - Hammerson, Johnson Matthey, Rank, Edinburgh Investment Trust and Elementis.

Just three have gone bankrupt, British and Commonwealth Shipping, Ferranti and MFI Furniture. 

“Given the rate of change in technology, consumer tastes and regulation to name but three things that may have posed difficulties for companies over the past 40 years, a 3% failure rate does not look too bad,” adds Mould.

“This may help to explain the attraction the FTSE 100 has for many investors, as its member firms’ very scale means they tend to be very dependable and can be excellent sources of cashflow and thus dividends given their maturity. FTSE 100 firms are also subject to the very highest levels of scrutiny, and corporate governance has to be top notch to withstand the market’s examinations.”

How much have investors earned from the FTSE 100?

“Measured in point terms, the FTSE 100 has risen 447% since its inception and over the last five years it has seen a mere increase of just 15% which is particularly pedestrian compared to the US S&P 500 Index which has risen 90% over the same period," Jason Hollands of BestInvest says,

"While there is no denying that the FTSE 100 has been massively outgunned by US equity performance, the movement in FTSE 100 points is a very partial picture of returns made as the overwhelmingly majority of total returns made from the UK stock market – in fact virtually all the real returns once inflation is factored in - have come from the dividend payments. When these are included and reinvested, the total return from the FTSE 100 over the last forty years is 2,219%  and over five years it is 39%".

Below are the FTSE 100 returns in capital and total returns (dividends reinvested).

Chart on FTSE returns

Source: BestInvest

(Image credit: BestInvest)

Has the FTSE 100 moved with the times?

Many people hit age 40 and worry that they are over the hill. They may no longer recognise footballers, pop music or the latest fashion trends.

A similar accusation could be thrown at the FTSE 100.

“Critics will argue the FTSE 100 has, however, ossified since the turn of the century,” adds Mould.

“The index peaked at 6,930 on December 31 1999, just as the technology, media and telecoms bubble began to leak air, and since then it has grubbed out a capital return of just 9.7%. 

“That equates to a turgid compound annual return of 0.4% and comes nowhere close to covering the compound annual rate of inflation of 3.4%, based on the RPI over the past twenty-four years.”

Some may say the FTSE 100 hasn’t done enough to move with the times and has become too dependent upon a small number of behemoths that have been in the index for a long time.

Just a dozen FTSE 100 firms make up half of its current market cap, says Mould.

“ Eight of them – Shell, Unilever, BP, Rio Tinto, BAT, GSK, RELX and Reckitt Benckiser – were there in 1984, in one way shape or form and two more (HSBC and Diageo) have their origins in founder members of the index, in the shape of Midland Bank (HSBC) and Allied Lyons, Distillers and Grand Metropolitan (Diageo),” adds Mould.

 “Eight of the forecast twelve biggest contributors to the FTSE 100’s 2023 aggregate-pre-tax profit were also there at the start in 1984 – Shell, BP, Rio Tinto, BAT, Unilever, Barclays, GSK and Lloyds – while NatWest and HSBC can be traced back to two more founder members, National Westminster Bank and Midland Bank.

 “And six of the forecast twelve biggest payers of dividends in 2023 also hail from the first crop of FTSE 100 firms. They are Shell, BAT, Rio Tinto, BP, Unilever and GSK, while HSBC and Diageo can trace their origins back to the first crop of constituents.

But when you actually look at the makeup, Mould suggests that the FTSE 100 is still managing to evolve over time – albeit slowly  - as can be seen from a simple comparison of the index on 3 January 1984 and 30 September 2023.  

Swipe to scroll horizontally
FTSE 100 founders, 3 January 1984 FTSE 100, 30 September 2023
Allied Lyons 3i
Associated British Foods Admiral Group
Associated Dairies Anglo American
BICC Antofagasta
BOC Ashtead
BPB Industries Associated British Foods
BTR AstraZeneca
Barclays Auto Trader
Barratt DevelopmentAviva
Bass B&M European Value Retail
Beecham BAE Systems
Berisford Barclays
Blue Circle Barratt Developments
Boots Beazley
British Aerospace Berkeley
British & Commonwealth ShippingBP
British Electric Traction British American Tobacco
British Home StoresBT
British Petroleum Bunzl
Britoil Burberry
Bowater Centrica
Burton Coca-Cola HBC
Cable & Wireless Compass
Cadbury Schweppes ConvaTec
Charterhouse J. RothschildCroda
Commercial UnionDCC
Consolidated Gold Fields Dechra Pharmaceuticals
Courtaulds Diageo
Dalgety Diploma
Distillers Endeavour Mining
Edinburgh Investment Trust Entain
English China Clays Experian
Exco International F & C Investment Trust
Ferranti Flutter Entertainment
Fisons Frasers
General Accident Fresnillo
General ElectricGlencore
Glaxo GSK
Globe Investment Trust Haleon
Grand Metropolitan Halma
Great Universal Stores Hargreaves Lansdown
Guardian Royal Exchange Hikma Pharmaceuticals
Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds Howden Joinery
Hambro LifeHSBC
Hammerson IMI
Hanson Trust Imperial Brands
Harrisons & Crosfield Informa
Hawker Siddeley InterContinental Hotels
House of Fraser International Cons. Airlines
ICI Intertek
Imperial Continental Gas JD Sports Fashion
Imperial Kingfisher
Johnson Matthey Land Securities
Ladbrokes Legal and General
Land Securities Lloyds
Legal & General London Stock Exchange
Lloyds Bank M & G
MEPC Marks & Spencer
MFI Furniture Melrose Industries
Magnet & Southerns Mondi
Marks & Spencer National Grid
Midland Bank NatWest Group
National Westminster Bank Next
Northern Foods Ocado
Pearson Pearson
Peninsular & Oriental Steam Pershing Square
Pilkington Phoenix Group
Plessey Prudential
Prudential Assurance Reckitt Benckiser
Racal Rentokil Initial
Reckitt & Colman Rio Tinto
Redland Rolls Royce
Reed RS Group
Rio Tinto-Zinc Sage
Rowntree Mackintosh Sainsbury
Royal Bank of Scotland Schroders
Royal Insurance Scottish Mortgage Inv. Trust
Sainsbury SEGRO
Scottish & Newcastle Severn Trent
Sears Shell
Sedgwick Smith & Nephew
Shell Transport & Trading Smith DS
Smith & Nephew Smiths Group
Standard Chartered Smurfit Kappa
Standard Telephone & Cables Spirax-Sarco Engineering
Sun Alliance & London InsuranceSSE
Sun Life Assurance St. James's Place
Tarmac Standard Chartered
Tesco Taylor Wimpey
Thorn EMITesco
Trafalgar House Unilever
Trusthouse Forte Unite
Ultramar United Utilities
United Biscuits Weir Group
Whitbread Whitbread
Wimpey (George)WPP

“Further changes are likely, thanks to the final index reshuffle of 2023,” he adds.

Marc Shoffman
Contributing editor

Marc Shoffman is an award-winning freelance journalist specialising in business, personal finance and property. His work has appeared in print and online publications ranging from FT Business to The Times, Mail on Sunday and The i newspaper. He also co-presents the In For A Penny financial planning podcast.