INTRODUCING A NEW FORTUNE LIST
(FORTUNE Magazine) – NOW THAT the global village is truly upon us, it looks more like a global industrial park. We live in an expansive new world of economic interconnections where business roars through borders and time zones. To keep up with it, FORTUNE on these pages introduces the Global 500 -- the largest industrial corporations in the world ranked by sales.
The new list is a combination of the 500 largest industrial companies in the U.S., first published in 1955, and the International 500, which was begun in 1976 and included only companies outside the U.S. In recent years, FORTUNE also produced rankings of the world's top 50 and 100 companies, but this new list has much more data. It cites not only sales and profits, but assets, stockholders' equity, and numbers of employees as well, and also ranks companies by industry groups and by country. The top 50 companies on the new list generated $1.85 trillion in sales, 5% more than in 1988, adjusted for inflation. The Global 500 offers more than a picture of how the world's biggest companies fared at the end of the decade. It is a snapshot of the final year of the postwar economic order, when countries stuck almost exclusively to their own sides of the Berlin Wall and capitalists had capitalism almost exclusively to themselves. Well over half the 500's revenues came from petroleum production and refining, automaking, electronics manufacturing, and food processing. Oil companies generated higher revenues and earnings than any other group. Exxon is the biggest oil company, ranking No. 3 on the list behind General Motors and Ford Motor. Royal Dutch/Shell ranks fourth. Petroleos de Venezuela (No. 76), Petrobras (No. 58) of Brazil, and Pemex (No. 65) of Mexico are all in the top 100. The U.S. leads all countries, with 167 companies on the list. That's more than Japan, West Germany, and Canada combined. Besides GM, Ford, and Exxon, 32 other U.S. companies were in the top 100. Americans are No. 1 in 14 of the 25 industries on the Global 500, including aerospace (Boeing, No. 45), computers (IBM, No. 5), and electronics (General Electric, No. 7). The main competition in aerospace comes from France, which has four companies, compared with the U.S.'s 11. In computers, the U.S. has ten companies to Japan's three. Impressive as those numbers are, U.S. dominance is slowly giving way. In 1980, 23 U.S. companies made the top 50, compared with only five Japanese. Now there are 17 American and ten Japanese. Two of the largest corporations, Samsung (No. 20) and Daewoo (No. 47), are South Korean. The trend is particularly noticeable in electronics. Of the 46 companies in the category, the U.S. has 16 and Japan 15. But after GE, five of the top ten are Japanese and the rest are from South Korea, West Germany, the Netherlands, and France. A CUSTOMER interested in doing business with the world's biggest companies might order clothes from a U.S. firm -- the largest apparel maker is Levi Strauss (No. 360) -- but the materials could well come from Japan, which has the three top textile makers. Planning a dinner party? Order food and beverages from the U.S. (Philip Morris, No. 14, and PepsiCo, No. 63, lead their categories), but leave the music to Japan (Yamaha, No. 348, is the world's biggest producer of pianos). Thinking of settling down? Build a house with British building materials (Hanson, No. 91) and buy tires for your GM car from a Japanese company (Bridgestone, No. 84). The most profitable companies were American and British. U.S. industrial firms accounted for 37% of sales of all companies on the list, but 40% of profits. Britain produced 12% of profits -- the second best -- on just 7% of sales. Surprisingly, the Japanese were relatively weak earners. While they were second to the U.S. in sales, with 20% of the total, they were behind the British in profitability.
Though the empire is long gone, British companies maintained a formidable global presence through exporting. BAT Industries (No. 36) began to sell off its retailing divisions to focus mostly on tobacco. With brands like Kool, Kent, and Lucky Strike, BAT increased cigarette exports by 16%. British Aerospace became Britain's largest exporter of manufactured goods. Globalization sped ahead, with U.S. and European multinationals buying their way into new markets through mergers, acquisitions, and joint ventures. SmithKline Beckman of the U.S. and Beecham Group of Britain merged to become SmithKline Beecham (No. 157), the third-largest pharmaceutical company. CMB Packaging (No. 384) of France, which makes cans and bottles, was created through a merger of France's Carnaud and an arm of Britain's MB group. Nippon Mining (No. 210), a metals and petroleum company, strengthened its drive into electronics by acquiring Gould Inc. of the U.S. Asea Brown Boveri, the Swiss- Swedish maker of heavy electrical equipment, greatly increased its U.S. presence with the acquisition of Combustion Engineering and the electric transmission and distribution divisions of Westinghouse. Ford bought Jaguar, Britain's upscale but troubled carmaker. Two Japanese companies reported big gains in sales because of acquisitions the year before. Sony (No. 57) had a 64% increase in revenues in its first full year as owner of CBS Records. Strong performances by most of the company's electronics divisions helped too. Bridgestone's sales rose by a third, largely because of the company's 1988 buyout of Firestone, the U.S. tiremaker. Two Japanese high-tech companies had strong results without major acquisitions. Hitachi, which makes everything from vacuum cleaners to computers, got into the top ten, in the No. 9 position. Fujitsu expanded its personal computer and telecommunications businesses to move into the top 50, at No. 49. Sales of Nissan Motor (No. 17) jumped 23% to $36 billion. The company had notable success in raising its share of the hot market for high-priced sporty cars, both in Japan and in the U.S. Toyota (No. 6) and Honda (No. 30), riding the same trend at home and abroad, increased their revenues 19% each. But ''car'' was not a magic word for all. Volvo had a 7% decline in revenues, partly due to currency fluctuations that weakened its global competitiveness. The Swedish automaker's profits were hurt by increased costs at home. Volkswagen's sales strengthened a bit, but not anywhere near as much as did those of its Japanese competitors. THE GRANDES DAMES of food companies, No. 18 Unilever, which, though famous for soap, is classified as a food company because the largest portion of its revenue comes from such brands as Lipton Tea and Ragu spaghetti sauce, and Nestle (No. 26), held their ground. Aggressive Philip Morris (No. 14) and Britain's Grand Metropolitan (No. 73) ate their way up the ranks with a series of acquisitions. Philip Morris, with subsidiaries Kraft and General Foods, had revenue gains of 51%. Grand Met, new owner of Pillsbury and Burger King, raised its sales by 58%. As the boundaries of business loosen, the worldwide opportunities expand. In 1992 the last of the European Community's internal trade barriers will disappear. The two Germanies are speeding toward unification. Western companies have already begun to invest in the old East bloc -- Volkswagen in East Germany, GE in Hungary, McDonald's in the Soviet Union. At some point investment is likely to flow in the other direction. Perhaps early in the 21st century, or sooner, a Czechoslovak company will make FORTUNE's top 100.
BOX: COUNTRIES WITH THE BIGGEST COMPANIES
COUNTRY COMPANIES LARGEST ON THE LIST COMPANY
UNITED STATES 167 GENERAL MOTORS JAPAN 111 TOYOTA MOTOR BRITAIN 43 BRITISH PETROLEUM WEST GERMANY 32 DAIMLER-BENZ FRANCE 29 RENAULT SWEDEN 15 VOLVO CANADA 13 CANADIAN PACIFIC SOUTH KOREA 11 SAMSUNG AUSTRALIA 10 ELDERS IXL SWITZERLAND 10 NESTLE
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