Who runs the world? Top ten global corporations on the rise

The LA skyline in the morning
By Alex Burden, Student Blog

2 February 2017

The new list of corporations and companies dominating the economy has been released, with surprising additions and a sharp move away from the power of financials.

Gone are the banks, with the exception of new entrant Berkshire Hathaway, who took the fourth spot in the list with over $300bn on their market value.

The Bloomberg list uses market capitalisation strength to assess the top corporates, which translates as the total market value of a company’s outstanding shares.

Who’s in and who’s out?

Why is it important to know who the tops the list? Fewer than 10% of global public companies produce 80% of the profits.

In the 2006 list, Bloomberg produced a list sporting five energy companies (Exxon Mobil (1), Gazprom (3), Royal Dutch Shell (7), BP (8) and PetroChina (9)) who collectively earned over $1,200bn, while the next biggest group were the financial giants (racking in $600bn) and composed of Citigroup (5), Bank of America (6) and HSBC (10).

This was all to change in the financial crash of 2008, when the fortunes of cash-rich banking groups began to dwindle. Moving on ten years, how does the landscape look now?

Who was riding high in 2016?

The big names of the last decade are almost absent from revised list. Gone are the banks, with the exception of new entrant Berkshire Hathaway who took the fourth spot in the list with over $350bn on their market capitalisation strength.

With CEO Warren E. Buffet at the helm, the company has diversified a long way from its original role as a textiles company in the 1800s. The company now fully owns Dairy Queen, Helzberg Diamonds, and BNSF Railway, to name a few, and has holdings in the likes of Kraft Heinz, The Coca-Cola Company, Wells Fargo, American Express and Mars Incorporated.

1. Apple

With a market cap of just under $600bn from all that lovely iPhone, iPad and laptop income. The Apple Geniuses must also work in their business growth department!

2. Alphabet

Market cap at over $500bn. Founded by Google’s owners, this company actually owns Google along with several other companies dedicated to life sciences, research, urban innovation, new technologies and more. Altogether, Alphabet owns 12 companies. They currently sit at a market cap of over $500bn.

3. Microsoft

Moving up one place from 2006 is Microsoft - it’s guaranteed that you’ve used at least one of their products in your life; ‘Word’ is the staple of offices around the globe.

UPDATE: On 27 Jan 2017, it was announced that Microsoft’s market capitalization has now topped $500bn!

4. Berkshire Hathaway

Over $350bn for possibly the most diversified company on the list. Playing cards with Warren Buffet’s face on them, anyone? Check out their website for a flashback to early web templates of the 1990s!

5. Exxon Mobil

They may have dropped from their number one spot in 2006, but there’s still money in gas and oil! Around $350bn+ to be exact. 

6. Amazon

Amazon's position is unsurprising as the go-to online marketplace for savvy internet shoppers. Scooping up a market cap of more than $350bn.

7. Facebook

How does a free social service generate this much income and market cap of over $350bn? Careful planning and harnessing (harvesting?) data.

8. Johnson and Johnson

Over $300bn fuelled by toiletries and pharmaceuticals - they've cornered the market on everyday necessities. 

9. General Electric 

They were riding high at number two in 2006 but have held on to their place in the top ten with a market cap of just under $300bn. Thomas Edison wouldn’t recognise this industrial giant today; they’ve moved a long way past lightbulbs!  

10. China Mobile

Over $200bn for this large mobile network providing telecoms to China and areas of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Every company in 2016's top ten is headquartered in the US, with China Mobile being the exception (unsurprisingly, headquartered in China).

The World Economic Forum has produced this informative, quick video on the corporate giants catering to global needs.


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