In a year marked by rising oil prices, US retailer Wal-Mart Stores regained it position as the No 1 Fortune Global 500 displacing oil giant Exxon Mobil. The next nine companies in the Top 10 list comprised oil and automobile companies. China added four new companies to the list taking its tally to 24, while that of Indiaâ€™s count remained constant at six.
The Fortune 500 list ranks companies on the basis of the previous year revenues unlike the Financial Times Global 500 which ranks on the basis of market capitalization. The Fortune list often reveals emerging patterns in business and geographies. Last year, only companies with annual sales of over $14.9billion made it to the list.
In the 2007 list, oil remained the big story with six companies making it to the Top 10. Contrary to what economists would say, automobile companies continued to do well despite a dramatic increase in fuel prices. Ford dropped out of the top 10 due to internal problems and was replaced by Total, which pushed engineering giant General Electric for the coveted No 10 position.
In India, too the fortunes of companies on the list had much to do with increasing oil prices and refining margins. Indian Oil Corporation and Reliance Industries are now placed at 135th and 269th ranks respectively.
Just a few years ago, it was the technology companies like Microsoft which increased its rank in the list. Last year, it was the turn of securities companies like Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs which broke into the top 75 for the first time on the back of fat fees they earned from a rash of mergers and acquisitions. In fact, the securities industry grew by 45% last year. Driving economic growth stories in Middle East, China, and India, constructing material companies like Franceâ€™s Lafarge and Switzerlandâ€™s Holcim rose at least 30 ranks. During the period under review, Holcim bought large stake in two companies ACC and Gujarat Ambuja while Lafarge added new capacity in China.
Asian companies, too, have fared well thanks to the spurt in companies from China. After Toyota, Asiaâ€™s next three largest corporations are now Chinese. Led by Industrial & Commercial Bank of China (No 170) , which ,boasted the worlds largest public offering in 2006, Chinese banks are also well represented in the list. However, Japan still has the highest number of companies from Asia on the list, close to 70 companies thrice as much as those from China.