Investment Insider: Are giant companies such a big deal for investors?

Shares in Apple climbed above $660 this week, propelling its market value to $624bn, which topped the previous record held by Microsoft. The maker of iPods, iPhones and iPads is now worth more than Switzerland. Bought shares in Apple in 2002 and you'd be looking at an average annual return of 46 per cent.

But how has the world's other 10 biggest companies rewarded investors over the last decade?

PetroChina, which boasts a market value of $239bn, is China's biggest oil and gas producer and the world's fourth biggest company. Together with Sinopec, the two companies virtually control the wholesale and retail oil business in China. Over the last 10 years PetroChina has delivered a total return of 602%. An investment of £1,000 in the company in 2002 would be worth over £7,000 today.

Three other oil companies can be found in the list of the world's 10 largest companies: ExxonMobil, the world's second-largest company, Royal Dutch Shell, at number five, and Chevron at number nine. Although ExxonMobil is about 35 per cent smaller than Apple, it still boasts a market value of some $406 billion, twice the size of Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron. Over the last 10 years ExxonMobil and Chevron have rewarded investors handsomely with annual compound returns of 10.2 per cent and 13 per cent.

Technology companies feature strongly in the world's 10 largest companies. Microsoft is the second biggest hi-tech company with a market value of $258bn, but it has been a disappointing investment over the last 10 years with returns barely breaking even after dividends are included. China Mobile, on the other hand, has been a solid performer. Its 190% total return can be attributed to its near domination of the Chinese mobile market.

The world's 10 largest companies have collectively delivered an average annual return of 650%. However, when Apple's returns are stripped out, the performance is more mundane. The top 10's total return is a more modest 113 per cent over 10 years or just 8 per cent a year.

David Kuo is a director of fool.co.uk

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