One world: one gigantic market place. This year, 63 countries have Global 2000 entries vs 51 in our inaugural list in 2004. Forbes Global 2000 are the biggest, most powerful listed companies in the world. Our justification for using a composite ranking is simple: One metric alone can give a false impression about corporate size. Our ranking of the world’s biggest companies departs from lopsided lists based on a single metric, like sales. Instead we use an equal weighting of sales, profits, assets and market value to rank companies according to size.
In total, the Global 2000 companies now account for $38 trillion in revenues (up 6%), $2.43 trillion in profits (down 7%), $159 trillion in assets (up 7%) and $39 trillion in market value (up 7%). These firms also employ 87 million people worldwide. All metrics are up from a year ago, except for profits.
This year’s list again reveals the dynamism of global business. The rankings span 63 countries, three countries less than last year. The U.S. (543 members) adds 19 firms, bucking its declining presence since 2004 and registering its highest total since 2009. Japan (251 members) again has the second biggest presence on our list despite losing seven more members from last year. Mainland China (136 members) checks in as the third largest country in terms of membership with same number of firms from a year ago. This is the first year since our inaugural 2004 list that China has not increased its number of Global 2000 companies. There are eleven countries with only one firm, including New Zealand, the Czech Republic and Vietnam.
Countries standing out in terms of growth across all four metrics are Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. Belgium, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates saw the biggest increase in company market values, all with double-digit growth from a year ago. The current economic crisis in Spain and Greece took its toll on their firms’ profits with each showing a country showing a combined deficit this year. You can also throw Italy in the mix as their firms show a decline in all four metrics this year.
In our tenth annual ranking, government-controlled Chinese bank ICBCunseats Exxon Mobil as the world’s biggest company this year and takes the number one spot for the first time. Another Chinese bank, China Construction Bank, moves up 11 spots to No. 2 on the list. Each company’s bump up in our ranks stem from double-digit growth in both sales and profits in 2012. Although profits are still growing for both banks, 2012 was their slowest annual growth rate since each went public. Most analysts don’t expect a banking crisis in China, but rising defaults and shrinking loan profitability are serious threats to the country’s banking system. JPMorgan Chase, the world’s biggest company in 2011, moves down one spot from last year to No. 3, with a small decline in sales. Also moving down a spot this year is conglomerate GE, the No.4 company overall. Rounding out the top five is last year’s biggest company, Exxon Mobil. Despite being the world’s most profitable company for the second year in a row, the oil & gas giant was knocked off its No.1 perch after a one-year reign.
Apple (tied at No. 15) is again the world’s most valuable company, even after it took a 24% haircut in market value since last March. Wal-Mart Stores (tied at No.15) returns as the word’s sales leader with 5% growth, reclaiming the top spot from Royal Dutch Shell. Germany’s Allianz, Korea’s Samsung Electronics, and U.S.based AT&T broke into the elite 25 this year, with Allianz gaining the most ground, up from No. 50 a year ago to No. 25.
If you are looking for big jumps in rank on this year’s list, you can start with German utility firm E.ON (No.99 vs. No. 409 in 2012), which returned to profitability in 2012 assisted by several factors, including the successful renegotiation of gas-supply contracts from Russia and Norway, a lack of previous negative one-off effects and Germany’s decision to phase out nuclear power. U.S.-based health care company, Express Scripts (No.170 vs. No.381 in 2012) jumped 211 spots with its $29.1 billion acquisition of rival Medco Health Solutions. Japanese beverage company Kirin Holdings (No. 467, vs. No. 733 in 2012) saw a big increase in profits and a 31% gain in market value.
Looking at big drops in rank, these firms are showing declines in all four metrics from a year ago. There is U.S.-based PC giant Hewlett Packard (No. 438, vs. No. 67 in 2012), which wrote down $8.8 billion of the value of U.K. software firm Autonomy, a year after its disastrous $11.1 billion acquisition. Mining giant Rio Tinto (No. 435, vs.m No. 69 in 2012) recorded a net loss after impairments of $14 billion, primarily relating to aluminum businesses as well as coal assets in Mozambique. Another company’s fall from grace is Brazil’s energy giant, Eletrobrás (No. 935, vs. No. 320 in 2012), posted a net loss in 2012, due to the impacts of a government order to cut energy electric rates.
There are 162 newcomers to this year’s Global 2000. The biggest newcomers immediately land on the list by way of initial public offerings or spin-offs of major subsidiaries of their former parent companies, who are also on our list.Phillips 66 (No. 130), was spun-off from ConocoPhillips (no. 73) in May of last year. AbbVie (No. 257) is the research-based pharmaceuticals business ofAbbott Labs (No. 123) that started to publicly trade as an independent company in January of this year when the company officially separated into two public companies. At press time, Abbott Labs did not release 2012 historical figures as a new stand-alone company, so its sales, profit and asset figures and ranks are based on consolidated figures prior to the separation.Kraft Foods Group (No. 360), the North American grocery business was spun-off in October of last year by Mondelez International (No. 182). Chinese insurer People’s Insurance Company of China (PICC- No. 226) went public in a $3.1 billion November 2012 IPO. German insurance firm, Talanx, the majority owner of Hannover Re, pulled its IPO plans in mid-September 2012, but then went ahead with a $602 million IPO in October 2012.
Banks and diversified financials still dominate the list, with a combined 469 (down 9 from last year) companies, thanks in large measure to their sales and asset totals. The next three biggest industries by membership are oil & gas (124 firms), materials (122 firms) and insurance (109 firms). The industry growth leaders over the past year for each metric: health care companies, primarily services, lead all sectors in sales (up 15%); household products and services lead in profits (up 22%); Semiconductors lead in asset growth (up 24%); and media, getting a big boost by broadcasting and cable companies, lead all sectors in market value growth (up 20%). The materials sector, including metal and mining companies, lagged all industries with a 55% drop in profits and 19% decline in market value.
We break our list into four regions: Asia-Pacific, (715 total members), followed by Europe, Middle East & Africa-EMEA (606), the U.S. (543) and the Americas (143). Only the U.S. grew across all four metrics from a year ago. Asia-Pacific, the biggest region, has the most members for the sixth year running. They also lead all regions in sales growth (up 8%) and asset growth (up 15%) . The U.S. leads in profit growth (up 4%), earning an aggregate $876 billion in profits and market value growth (11%), with an aggregate value of $14.8 trillion. U.S.-based companies are the most profitable and most valuable of all regions. The EMEA generated the most sales, a combined $13.3 trillion, and holds the most assets with $64 trillion.