China dominates Fortune Global 500 for first time

Fortune Global 500

For the first time ever there are more Fortune Global 500 companies based in China and Hong Kong than in the US.

“It’s hard to overstate the significance of the change in the global economy that represents. As Fortune Editor-in-Chief Cliff Leaf points out, when the Global 500 list first came out in 1990, there were no Chinese companies on the list. In the intervening three decades, the Chinese economy has skyrocketed, powered by a global trade boom that expanded from 39% of global GDP to 59%,” Fortune Media CEO Alan Murray said.

“It’s worth noting that the Global 500 ranking is based on revenues, and many of the Chinese companies on the list — like Sinopec, State Grid and China National Petroleum — earned their spot not necessarily because of their business dynamism, but because they are state-supported monopolies in the world’s largest market.

“And by the way, being on the list is no guarantee of profitability. The five biggest losers on this year’s list — Pemex, Schlumberger, Softbank, the US Postal Service and Nissan — lost $52 billion in 2019 (sixth and seventh in the money losers’ ranking were Deutsche Bank and General Electric, which together lost another US$11 billion). Saudi Aramco, on the other hand, netted US$88 billion in profits and is Fortune Global 500’s most profitable company for the second consecutive year,” added Murray.

The world’s 500 largest companies generated US$33.3 trillion in total revenue and US$2.1 trillion in profits in 2019. Fortune Global 500 2020 companies employ 69.9 million people worldwide and are represented by 32 countries.

Walmart, which operates a chain of hypermarkets, discount department stores, and grocery stores, again topped the Fortune Global 500 list with revenue of US$524 billion. It has been top of the Fortune Global 500 for seven successive years.

Fortune Global 500, Walmart CEO
Doug McMillon became CEO of Walmart in February 2014.

Walmart, which has its headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, has become an e-commerce threat to Amazon in the US, with sales up 37% last year. Walmart’s 4,600 US stores have capitalised on the coronavirus pandemic by allowing curbside pickup for online orders. In the first quarter of the 2021 financial year, Walmart reported “unprecedented demand” for goods that drove up company sales by 10% and e-commerce sales by 74%. It also operates in China and India.

Sinopec Group, China’s state-owned petroleum and chemical giant, also remained at No. 2 with revenue of US$407 billion despite its profits falling 16.2% to US$6.8 billion. Beijing-based State Grid, China’s state-owned power company, was third with revenue of US$384 billion despite a fall in sales of just under 1% in 2019. Fourth on the Fortune Global 500 for the fourth successive year was China National Petroleum, the state-owned parent company of China’s second-largest oil producer, PetroChina, with US$379 billion. Despite a US$4.3 billion net loss in 2019.

Fortune Global 500 Top 10:

  • Walmart US$524 billion
  • Sinopec Group US$407 billion
  • State Grid US$384 billion
  • China National Petroleum US$379 billion
  • Royal Dutch Shell commonly known as Shell, is a British-Dutch oil and gas company US$352 billion
  • Saudi Aramco US$330 billion
  • Volkswagen US$283 billion
  • BP US$283 billion
  • US$281 billion
  • Toyota Motor US$275 billion

Fourteen of the Fortune Global 500 companies are run by female CEOs, although Julie Sweet becomes Accenture CEO next month and will make it 15. Only 12 Fortune Global 500 companies were run by women last year.

Fortune Global 500
Mary Barra has been CEO of General Motors since January 15, 2014.

Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors since January 15, 2014, has the highest rank among the woman-led companies.

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