The 10 Public Companies with the Biggest Market Value

The business world can be tough and unforgiving but for those ambitious, bright young things struggling on the career ladder, the shining examples of wealth and success are worthy motivators. The potential pay offs for those that hit the big time are astronomical, providing the inspiration for budding entrepreneurs, or aspiration for junior employees. But who are these high-performing companies and just how much money do they make? Every year, business magazine Forbes takes a look at multinationals the world over in terms of profit, assets, share price and market value. By combining these stats they then rate each company on a global scale.

Through focusing on one key aspect of those rankings - the market value of several major companies - we've assessed who comes out on top. The companies on the list range from energy and mining to technology and banking but the common thread among all ten is a global focus and of course, a public offering. Public companies are, in a nutshell, those who trade on the stock market: What this means is that the company has no sole owner - although there's often a majority shareholder. The advantage of trading on the stock market, of course, is that you can increase the value of a company and rake in the capital in the process. While most of the names featured here will be familiar to you, a couple may be unfamiliar, especially to the western gaze. So if you want to know who is raking in the billions and just how big todays multinationals are, take a look at the top 10 public companies on our list.

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10 Microsoft: $234.8 Billion

The first company to hit our list is one that needs no introduction. It’s a fairly safe bet that at some point in your life you  have used- or if you’re one of the few still using Internet Explorer are using- some of Microsoft’s products. The company was of course founded by Bill Gates in 1975 and has grown to be one of the biggest - and certainly most prolific - software companies in the world. While Microsoft HQ is firmly on the West Coast, in Redmond, Washington, the company employs a staggering 94,000 people globally. Not only that but Forbes ranks Microsoft as the second most valuable brand in the world for 2013 second only to, you’ve guessed it, Apple. However, the fact that the company's market value only comes in 10th is an indication of the changing tides in tech. With the software and mobile explosion of recent years, many in the tech community have questioned the future of Microsoft: Some see the company’s glory days as being behind them. In spite of the naysayers or the Apple rivalry, Microsoft remains one of the most powerful companies in the world and was one of the first to show longevity within the tech sector.

9 ICBC: $237.3 Billion

While everyone knows who Microsoft is, many of you may not have heard of ICBC. They are the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and came in at number one on Forbes’ ranking of public companies for 2013. ICBC operate in corporate, private and investment banking and are an increasingly major player outside of Asia. As well as an astounding 400,000 employees on their payroll, ICBC also reported profits of $37.8 billion for 2013 and have assets in the region of- wait for it- $2,813.51 billion. To put that in context, ICBC’s American equivalent, JP Morgan Chase, currently employs around 258,000 and has profits of $21.8 billion. ICBC also has stakes in several Latin American banks, including an 80% stake in Standard Bank Argentina. The bank, which trades on the Shanghai stock exchange, was founded in 1984 and is controlled by the Chinese government.

8 IBM: $239.5 Billion

Another of several IT companies to make our list, IBM is the grandfather of them all, founded in 1911 in New York. International Business Machines Corporation- to give IBM its full title - currently has over 466,000 employees. The company is somewhat unusual in that it's an internationally recognised brand, yet many consumers wouldn't know a lot about their portfolio of products. That’s because much of the software is used in business and technology, with their operating system Linux, the closest you'll get to their mass market. In addition to this, IBM has a strong portfolio in semiconductors and hardware storage systems, meaning that although you may not use an IBM product, your all-important data may be stored somewhere on one of their creations. The company reported $16.6 billion in profits for 2013 and trades on the New York Stock Exchange.

7 Wal-Mart Stores $242.5 Billion

The only direct-to-consumer brand to make the list, Wal-Mart needs little introduction. Since the company’s founding in 1962, the Everyday Low Price of philosophy has come to change the retail and FMCG sectors. And globally the company has over 2 million employees, reporting $17 billion in profit for 2013. In addition to operating the Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club chains in the United States, the company has a further 27 brands operating internationally: among these are Britain’s supermarket chain Asda and Japan’s Seiyu supermarket. Since its founding the brand has maintained its base in retail, while expanding into other sectors such as banking and telecommunications. It may seem unusual that a company as relatively pedestrian as Wal-Mart could have such a high market value, but there's a lot to be said for the consumer goods sectors: Wal-Mart’s pervasiveness in the North American market and consistent brand message means that they now dominate this industry. In fact, Forbes ranks the brand 18th of the world’s most valuable brands, and number one in terms of sales.

6 General Electric: $243.7 Billion

General Electric, or GE as they are also known, are another brand who have longevity on their side, working to make their way to the top and becoming an icon in the process. General Electric is one of the oldest company on our list, founded in 1892 in the United States. The company was the result of a merger between two companies transforming the world with the development of electricity: Thomas Edison’s 'Edison General Electric Company' and the Thomson-Houston Company. Today GE dominates in all that is electrical, supplying grid services, products and appliances to consumers as well as the aviation, healthcare and business, mining and broader energy sectors. It's this incredibly broad portfolio that has allowed GE to become the superpower of public companies that it is today. The profits for 2013 came in at $13.64 billion, and while that may not be as high as some other companies listed here, it is certainly not to be dismissed. The sense of innovation and legacy around the General Electric brand adds significantly to the company’s market value The company took in over $147 billion in sales for 2013, demonstrating their continued dominance worldwide.

5 Berkshire Hathaway: $252.8 Billion

You may not have heard that much about Berkshire Hathaway, but you've almost certainly heard of their CEO: he is none other than America’s second wealthiest man, self-made billionaire, Warren Buffett. Buffett founded Berkshire Hathaway in 1955, and it’s been going strong ever since. The company operates as a holding company with assets in a number of different sectors including insurance, construction, finance and media. The company made just $14.82 billion in profits last year, but that’s nothing compared to their assets, which are valued in the region of $427 billion. The company’s headquarters are in Buffett’s home town of Omaha, Nebraska and Berkshire Hathaway employs over 288,000 people globally.

4 PetroChina: $262.1 Billion

It’s probably pretty clear both where PetroChina are based and what industry they work in, but just in case, here are the stats: The company produces and sells oil and gas and their affiliated produce and is based in Beijing, China. They are the country’s largest oil and gas producer and began trading on the New York and Hong Kong stock exchanges in 2000. Last year they reported profits of $18.28 billion and sales of just under $309 billion. As the Asian market expands, demand for energy in the region is ever-increasing and PetroChina are winning big as a result. The company is more than just a player in China however; increasingly PetroChina is an international player. Russia and the United States may be traditionally thought of as the world’s greatest producers of oil and gas, but there is plenty of room for this newer kid on the block.

3 Google: $268.4 Billion

Possibly the most pervasive and prolific company on our list, Google has cruised on the wave of the tech revolution all the way to billionaire stardom. The company was founded in 1998 as a search engine but has grown to a software, cloud-storage, data and computer systems giant. Today Google Analytics, Adwords, Google+ and many others are vital for business and it seems there is no stopping these entrepreneurial superheros.  Based in the perpetually sunny Mountain View, California, the company counts Apple and, well, just about every other major tech player as their neighbours. Profits for 2013 were $10.74 billion while the company’s assets are valued just shy of $94 billion. Much of the company’s wealth is being funnelled into acquiring other tech companies and Google now boosts Motorola and Nik Software, amongst others, on their portfolio. Apparently there is no end in sight to the Google Empire, with the company continuing their EMEA and Asia expansion.

2 Exxon Mobil: $400.4 Billion

From Google's very modern money to the oldest company on our list now, Exxon Mobil was founded in 1859 with Colonel Edwin Drake struck oil in Pennsylvania. The portfolio of brands under this age-old company include Esso, Exxon and of course, Mobil. Operating on a global scale, although still firmly rooted in the United States, Exxon Mobil reported the largest profits of any company in the world for 2013. Exxon Mobil took in a huge $44.88 billion, which, when balanced against their relatively low staffing at 76,900, nets a tidy profit. Not only that, but the company proves more than any other energy or petro-group listed here the how apt is the description of oil as “black gold”; the company’s assets are valued at $333.8 billion, indicating the scope and scale of their operations.

1 Apple: $416.6 Billion

Apple hits the top spot in terms of market value. The company was founded in 1976 by the legendary Steve Jobs and its current CEO is Tim Cook.  As well as being number one on the Forbes market share list, Apple also comes in at number two in terms of profit, slightly behind Exxon Mobil at $41.75 billion. For many, Apple is the only brand that matters in consumer tech, and the company’s sleek image and consistent design have done much to establish the brand as a coveted, premium - yet essential - piece of hipster culture. Clearly. however. it’s not just the cool kids buying Macs, with the company cornering the market when it comes to smartphones. The company’s closest competitors in the smartphone industry, Samsung, have certainly put a dent in Apple’s market share in certain sectors but overall the brand still performs extraordinarily well. Critics have said that product is overpriced and that the brand has lost the innovative streak it had under Jobs but for the consumer, the little white logo is as dominant as ever.


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