The World's Most Admired Companies
By Eugenia Levenson

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Consistency is king when it comes to the global Most Admired Companies list. Eight of last year's top ten made a return appearance, with General Electric leading the pack for the seventh time in nine years. Toyota kept its No. 2 position, while Apple continued its meteoric rise to No. 5, outstripping Microsoft (No. 8). Europe's most admired, BMW, rose to its highest position in the global survey's history at No. 9. It's no accident that the two non-U.S. firms in the top ten are carmakers. American giants aren't even in the game: Honda, which rose eight places to No. 23, was the only other auto company to place this year.

U.S. firms still dominate the rest of the global list, whose top 50 rankings are based on votes across industry lines from 1,506 executives and analysts in 26 countries. American companies claimed 35 out of 50 spots and all but five of the top 25 positions. But they also accounted for the list's steepest drops. Tech giant Dell, ranked third as recently as 2005, plunged 20 spots to No. 27 as it grappled with an SEC investigation, slowing sales, and a management shakeup. Home Depot lost the most ground in the wake of a sluggish housing market and ex-CEO Robert Nardelli's controversial reign. The retailer dropped 24 places to land at No. 39. Last year's biggest loser, Sony, continued its slide to No. 41 as PlayStation 3 and the Blu-ray DVD format disappointed.

The winners? British retailer Tesco, whose aggressive expansion will take it into the U.S. this year, rose 13 places to No. 30. Disney, the lone entertainer in the crowd, jumped 17 spots to No. 16. And Boeing, which fell off the list in 2004, returned at No. 19 after winning market share from its struggling rival Airbus.

THE TOP TEN

1. General Electric

2. Toyota Motor

3. Procter & Gamble

4. Johnson & Johnson

5. Apple

6. Berkshire Hathaway

7. FedEx

8. Microsoft

9. BMW

10. PepsiCo