The best of the best. These are the world’s biggest companies in terms of annual revenue. They are true money making machines. Let’s explore what they do to earn them top honors. Info compiled from Fortune 500, Reuters, Bloomberg & google finance (with links to live prices below).
Walmart continues to make progress adapting its brick-and-mortar business to a digital future, investing heavily in technology and using its largesse as the world’s largest company to push down prices in a bid to win market share away from rivals Target and Amazon. Its Sam’s Club unit is still slugging it out with Costco in the big box category but earlier investments in groceries “from meat and produce to floral and pharmacy” appear to be paying off. Walmart operates more than 11,000 physical stores in 28 countries and e-commerce websites in 11 countries. It was founded in 1945 and is headquartered in Bentonville, Ark.
2. State Grid
This state-owned company is the world’s largest electric utility company and holds a monopoly in China. The core of its business revolves around constructing and operating power grids. State Grid was founded in 2002, a byproduct of China’s three-stage power sector reform that started in 1986. The reform separated the former State Power Corporation of China into two grid companies, resulting in the emergence of State Grid. The company now owns and manages five regional power grid companies and 24 electric power companies. In June, the company managed to run the Qinghai province on 100% renewable energy for seven days as part of a trial.
The state-owned Chinese oil and gas company is based on the former China Petrochemical Corporation and reigns as the third-largest chemical producer by sales since 2014. Established in 1998, Sinopec explores everything energy-related from the more traditional oil and coal to electricity and steam. The company has been expanding, securing contracts with the Mongolian Petro Matad and an EPC contract in Russia, and has not been free from scandal. Wang Tianpu, president of Sinopec from 2003 to 2014, faced jail time in January for accepting bribes and embezzling state properties during his time at the company.
4. China National Petroleum
Exploring hydrocarbon production operations onshore and offshore, this Chinese state-owned company is the largest integrated energy company in China. CNPC integrates the business portfolios of an oil company and oilfield service provider, but also continues operations in the entire oil and gas industry value chain. As renewable energy becomes cheaper and more marketable in the world, CNPC will have to keep up with rising environmental protection standards and the growing demand for energy in the country, especially as China emerges as a leader in the Paris Climate Accord.
5. Toyota Motor
The Japanese automobile manufacturer is the fifth-largest company in the world by revenue as of Apr. 2017, as well as the world’s biggest automotive manufacturer. It’s the world’s market leader in sales of hybrid electric cars and the maker of the popular Prius car, one of the world’s top-selling hybrids with over 6 million cars sold worldwide as of January 2017. Toyota produces vehicles for five brands including the Toyota brand, Lexus, Hino, Ranz, and Daihatsu.
As the largest automaker by worldwide sales, Volkswagen is a German automobile company started by the German Labour Front as the “people’s car.” The German Labour Front created Volkswagen to design a car that would be affordable, unlike more luxury German vehicles. The company’s core markets are China and Germany. Volkswagen is the founding member of Volkswagen Group which controls many car and truck brands including Audi, SEAT, Lamborghini, Bentley, Bugatti, Scania, MAN, and Skoda.
7. Royal Dutch Shell
The British-Dutch oil and gas company is one of the six oil and gas “supermajors” and the seventh largest company in the world measured by 2016 revenues, as well as the largest that are based in Europe. Shell works in exploration and production, refining, distribution and marketing, petrochemicals, power general, trading, and renewable energy such as biofuels and wind. The company operates in over 70 countries and produces about 3.7 billion barrels of oil a day. The Shell Oil Company is Royal Dutch Shell’s U.S. subsidiary and its largest businesses. Shell is listed on the London Stock Exchange with a market cap of 193 billion pounds – more than any other listed corporation on the exchange and one of the highest of any company in the world.
8. Berkshire Hathaway
This year Berkshire Hathaway ranks higher than ever before, yet the holding company is less about Warren Buffett than it ever was. Berkshire once generated the bulk of its income from Buffett’s investment mastery. Today it’s a conglomerate of dozens of companies from car insurance company Geico to underwear maker Fruit of the Loom to railroad giant Burlington Northern. Berkshire generates about three-quarters of its revenue from its non-financial operating businesses. The company was founded in 1889 and is headquartered in Omaha, Neb.
After more than a decade of solid growth fueled first by the iPod music player and then by the even more popular iPhone, Apple finally appeared to hit a wall, with lackluster sales “relatively speaking” for other products such as the iPad and Apple Watch and a heavy reliance on upgraded phone models. But the most profitable publicly-traded company in the world is investing heavily in software and its efforts in new areas of opportunity, including automobiles, remain in development (and under wraps). Apple was founded in 1977 and is headquartered in Cupertino, Calif.
10. Exxon Mobil
The world’s largest publicly-traded oil and gas company by market value has ridden out a collapse in crude prices better than most, its vertically-integrated model allowing downstream businesses to capture the value that upstream operations lose when oil prices are low. Even so, ExxonMobil’s once impregnable balance sheet is showing holes, and the company has tumbled a few spots compared to last year’s list. ExxonMobil remains the industry benchmark for everything from profitability to safety standards, but its rocky relationship with climate change remains its Achilles’ heel. The company has more than 35,000 gross and more than 29,000 net operated wells, was founded in 1870, and is headquartered in Irving, Texas.
McKesson, the largest U.S. pharmaceutical distributor, continues to face obstacles as the tailwind from branded drug price inflation subsides and customers look elsewhere. But its management isn’t taking the news lying down. A series of acquisitions, ongoing restructuring, and a rash of new deals are helping lessen the blow, setting in motion a roller-coaster ride of a year. McKesson was founded in 1833 and is headquartered in San Francisco.
The British multinational oil and gas company has a long history, dating back to 1908. Vertically integrated, the company operates in all areas related to oil and gas.The company has been directly involved with a number of environmental disasters and safety scandals in the last decade. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was the largest oil spill in modern history. From exploring new forms of energy to power generation and trading, their wide reach has been an advantage but the company has yet to fully recover from environmental scares. Looking to the future, BP seems to be thinking about restructuring operations and spinning off some of the pipeline operations.
13. UnitedHealth Group
UnitedHealth Group, America’s largest health insurer, has shown a willingness to go it alone with more than 130 million global customers, investments in various areas (including health services, pharmacy benefits, and prescription drug distribution) and a taste for making aggressive partnerships. UnitedHealth Group was founded in 1974 and is based in Minnetonka, Minn.
14. CVS Health
CVS Health continued its multi-year transformation from pharmacy company to health care company as the “retailization” of health trend continues in the United States. (CVS sees itself as the last mile in the delivery of care.) The company spent the year integrating its 2015 acquisition of Omnivore and the pharmacies and clinics of Target and focused on managing rising drug costs. Still, ongoing uncertainty around health care reform in the U.S. is weighing on the company, and CVS Health expects to close stores as it rationalizes its now-larger footprint. CVS Health was founded in 1963 and is headquartered in Woonsocket, R.I.
The South Korean multinational conglomerate is perhaps best known for their Galaxy smartphones. The company just recently revealed its voice assistant, the equivalent to Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri. Named Bixby, the unveiling of the voice assistant faced public backlash over sexist hashtags used for the “female” Bixby voice. After last year’s exploding Galaxy Note 7 fiasco, Samsung needs to show that they’re more than a company with faulty electronics.
The fairly quiet company hidden in Switzerland is a commodities giant. Though Glencore prefers to keep away from the media spotlight, everything from smartphones to sugar are impacted by the raw materials the company mines. The vertically-integrated company touches agriculture, energy, and metals by shipping and trading them. However, the company’s in a rut with commodities dropping in price and costs piling up. Investors urged the company to cut costs and control spending.
The German automobile manufacturer carries a long history, starting with Carl Benz applying for a patent for his “vehicle powered by a gas engine” in 1886. Today the company is better known for its luxury line, the Mercedes-Benz. But the Mercedes-Benz is just one of Daimler’s many divisions. The company also makes and sells city buses, coaches, and bus chassis around the world. Lately, Daimler’s had its hands full trying to handle a growing crisis over diesel emissions concerns by recalling more than 3 million vehicles.
18. General Motors
General Motors ended the year on a high note, posting strong sales numbers for Cadillac (its best worldwide since 1986) and Chevrolet (its best in the U.S. in a decade) as it rides a strong U.S. auto market. The company continues to work to fashion its OnStar vehicle connectivity service into a full-blown technology platform. Like its peers, GM is working to drive costs out of “and efficiencies into” its vehicles. With autonomous vehicles on the horizon, it’s also investing heavily in services and deals that aim to reimagine the company’s core business as “transportation,” not just “cars.” GM was founded in 1897 and is based in Detroit.
The telecommunications giant improved its revenues in 2016 and posted a record $39.3 billion in cash from operations as it invested heavily in the wireless, fiber, and Internet Protocol networks that make up its business. It started the year integrating its 2015 acquisition of DirecTV and ended it by announcing an even larger deal for media stalwart Time Warner. Along the way the company added 6.2 million wireless subscribers in the highly competitive U.S. market and expanded its lucrative business services portfolio. AT&T was founded in 1983 and is based in Dallas.
20. EXOR Group
Exor NV, formerly EXOR Holding NV, is an investment company based in the Netherlands. The Company invests in companies from different sectors, mainly in Europe & the US. It holds interests in Ferrari; Juventus; The Economist; PartnerRe (reinsurance); Fiat Chrysler Automobiles; CNH Industrial, (producing agric & construction equipment and trucks, buses, commercial & specialty vehicles); Welltec (manufactures equipment for the oil & gas industry); and Banca Leonardo, a private bank.
21. Ford Motor
Ford had its second-best year ever in 2016. The automaker posted impressive earnings and positive operating cash flow and launched 11 new vehicle models. Ford also announced the addition of 13 new electrified models over the next five years and doubled down on its investment in connectivity and mobility technologies “so much so that it launched Ford Smart Mobility as a subsidiary dedicated to emerging mobility services. Like its domestic rival GM, Ford has invested in autonomous technologies” it intends to have a fully autonomous model in commercial operation by 2021–but has taken a more incremental approach compared to relative upstarts like Tesla Motors. The company was founded in 1903 and is based in Dearborn, Mich.
22. Industrial & Commercial Bank China
China-based company providing banking & financial services. The Bank mainly operates three segments, including Corporate Banking, Personal Banking and Treasury. Corporate Banking provides loan, trade financing, deposit, corporate finance, custody and other related to enterprises, government agencies and institutions. Personal Banking provides loan, deposit, bank card, personal and related products to individuals. Treasury includes money mkt, securities, forex trading and derivatives.
23. Amerisource Bergen
AmerisourceBergen is the second-largest distributor of pharmaceuticals in the U.S. As such, it’s subject to many of the same forces affecting McKesson, its top competitor. Branded drug price deflation and fewer expected new drug launches continue to put pressure on industry profits, and AmerisourceBergen has been working to counter those effects. The company was founded in 1985 and is headquartered in Chesterbrook, Penn.
24. China State Construction Engineering
China-based company principally engaged in the engineering contracting businesses. The Company’s main businesses include the construction contracting of buildings, infrastructure construction and investment, real estate development and investment, electricity, energy exploitation, survey and design, as well the municipal utility design services. The Company mainly operates its businesses in domestic and overseas markets.
AXA SA is a France-based holding company engaged in the business of financial protection. The Company’s segments include #Life & Savings (savings, investments, health & protection), #Property & Casualty (motor, household, property & general liability), #Asset Management (and investment fund management), Banking and Holding (retail banking, mortgage loans and savings) companies. Business is conducted in France, Belgium and Germany. The Holding companies segment includes all non-operational activities.
The Everything Store continued its assault on, well, everything in 2016: drones (via its Prime Air program), artificial intelligence (via its popular Alexa assistant), convenience stores (via its cashier-less Amazon Go chain), and most crucially, analyst expectations that the company couldn’t turn a profit with regularity. The e-commerce giant is plowing money in with its blockbuster Echo home automation device portfolio, its Prime streaming video and music service, and its industry-leading Amazon Web Services cloud computing platform, which is under siege from rivals including Microsoft and Google. Amazon was founded in 1994 and is headquartered in Seattle.
27. Hon Hai Precision Ind
A Taiwan-based company that manufactures & sells 3C products (Computer, Component & Consumer electronics) including spare parts & line assembly. Its modules include the machinery & electronics. The Company is also engaged in the system assembly of information technology (IT) products, such as integrated connectors, computer bases, memories, central processing units (CPU) and software. The Company operates businesses in domestic and overseas markets.
28. China Construction Bank
The Bank operates its businesses through corporate banking businesses, including corporate deposit, corporate credit loan, asset custody, enterprise annuity, trade financing, international settlement, international financing and value-added services, among others, personal banking businesses, including personal deposit, loan, bank card services, private bank services, foreign exchange trading and gold trading services, among others, and capital business. The Bank operates its businesses in domestic and overseas markets.
29. Honda Motor
The company may have its roots in Hamamatsu, Japan where Honda was founded in 1948, but that didn’t stop the car manufacturer from creating the well reviewed Honda Civic, last year’s North American Car of the Year. Though their main product is automobiles, this Japanese company also explores artificial intelligence and robotics. It released ASIMO, a humanoid robot capable of speaking and finding balance on its own, in 2000. Most recently, Honda recalled 2.1 million Honda Accords internationally over battery fires, which might take away from the release of the new 2018 Honda Fit.
30. Total S.A.
An oil and gas company with 3 segments: Upstream, Refining & Marketing. Its Corporate segment includes holdings operating and financial activities. The Company operates in the renewable energies and power generation sectors. It is engaged in various sectors of oil and gas industry, including upstream (hydrocarbon exploration, development and production) and downstream (refining, petrochemicals, specialty chemicals, trading and shipping of crude oil and petroleum products and marketing).
31. General Electric
Under long-serving CEO Jeff Immelt, GE continues its major transformation to refocus on its bedrock industrial businesses and distance itself from the legacy of Immelt’s legendary predecessor, Jack Welch. The company faced headwinds in 2016 and earnings for its Oil and Gas business dropped 37% year over year as the rest of the portfolio rose 8%. “We simply couldn’t outrun pressure in resource markets,” Immelt acknowledged, even though the company’s greatest race is to turn its staple industrial businesses, from locomotives to jet engines, into high-growth opportunities. In August, Immelt handed over the CEO reins to John Flannery to continue GE’s transformation. GE was founded in 1892 and is headquartered in Boston.
It has been an acquisitive year for telecommunications giant Verizon. In the span of a few months the company announced that it would acquire both AOL and Yahoo as it works to load its formidable network—still the most comprehensive and widespread in the U.S.—with content in a bid to keep a highly competitive (and highly lucrative) market from turning into a commodity business. The company is dead-set on a mobile, digital future and has been investing in next-generation 5G wireless technology as well as the multitrillion-dollar Internet of things opportunities it enables. Verizon was founded in 1983 and is headquartered in New York City.
33. Japan Post Holdings
Japan-based company with five business segments. The Postal and Logistics arm does postal & logistics. The Financial arm does related & bank & counter services, product sales, real estate and partner fin services. The Banking arm does financing, fund & asset & liability management. The Life Insurance Business arm does insurance & management and work proxy & business agent services. The Other arm does the shared, hospital and accommodation business.
Allianz SE is a financial service company. The Company is the holding company of the Allianz Group (Allianz SE and its subsidiaries). The Company’s segments include Property-Casualty (for pvt and corp clients), Life/Health (for individuals & groups), Asset Management (institutional & retail plus inv mng serv to the Group’s insurance operations), and Corporate and Other (holding, banking, treasury & alternative investments). The Company provides a range of reinsurance coverage, primarily to Allianz insurance entities, as well as to third-party customers.
35. Cardinal Health
Cardinal Health, a drug wholesaler that also makes gloves and surgical apparel, has been shoring up its future earnings through a series of strategic acquisitions, development of its alternate care business, and promotion of its specialty drug assets. In late 2015 the company acquired Cordis, naviHealth, and Harvard Drug; it spent much of 2016 integrating them, with a 19% increase in annual revenue to show for it. The company’s pharmaceutical segment endured ongoing profit pressures for generics and the loss of a major customer but lessened the blows with new drug launches and sales growth; its medical segment grew because of acquisitions. The partnerships and purchases are a way for Cardinal Health to snag a greater share of the medical products sold to hospitals, physicians, and ambulatory centers. The company was founded in 1979 and is headquartered in Dublin, Ohio.
Costco may be grappling with lower gas prices that are eating into its sales growth, but the bulk retailer still outperforms Sam’s Club every quarter, and the company posted record sales in 2016. Costco benefits from having stores in more affluent areas than Sam’s does. It also invests heavily in improvements: it spent $2.65 billion to open 33 warehouses (it now runs 715), expand its distribution and transportation systems, remodel facilities; and upgrade its IT infrastructure. One soft spot? E-commerce. Costco has lagged rivals in terms of offering online services; it now operates digital stores in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Mexico, Korea, and Taiwan. Costco was founded in 1976 and is based in Issaquah, Wash.
37. Walgreens Boots Alliance
Walgreens Boots Alliance bills itself as “the first global, pharmacy-led health and wellbeing enterprise” and its size gives it enormous clout with drugmakers. Still, it’s been a mixed year for the company as it integrates its acquisition of smaller rival Rite Aid and streamlines its store footprint. In May the company extended by three years its multibillion-dollars distribution partnership with AmerisourceBergen, which has allowed it keep costs in check by streamlining how its gets its supply of drugs. Walgreens Boots Alliance was founded in 1901 and is based in Deerfield, Ill.
38. Agricultural Bank of China
China-based commercial bank. The Bank mainly operates through four business segments. The Corporate Finance dept (loans, small, micro, biz & trade finance, cash mng & inv banking). The Personal Finance (personal deposits, loans, cards & pvt banking). The Treasury dept (money mkt & inv management). The Asset Management dept (fin services, custody, pensions & precious metals).
39. Ping An Insurance
Ping An Insurance (Group) Company of China, Ltd. is a personal financial services provider. The Company operates its businesses through four segments. The Insurance segment covers life & property insurance, including term, whole-life, endowment, annuity, automobile & health insurance. The Banking segment has retail and corporate clients. The Assets management segment does investment, brokerage, trading and more. The Internet Financing segment finances internet products & services.
Most of the supermarket industry has fallen prey to Walmart’s drive into grocery over the last decade. Not Kroger. The Midwestern supermarket giant had a knockout 2015 with an 18% jump in profits. The following year wasn’t so kind. A deflationary environment “read: aggressive industry promotions that reduce earnings” weighed down the entire category in 2016. Still, the U.S.’s second-largest food retailer has a robust strategy. It will need it as it fights shaky consumer confidence and low commodity costs. Kroger was founded in 1883 and is headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio.